JACKSONVILLE – In the second of a series examining the Jaguars 2022 season, senior writer John Oehser examines the best moments for Jaguars running backs in their AFC South-title winning season …
- Fifty yards – and all the way. The Jaguars 2022 running back story was largely about second-year veteran Travis Etienne Jr., but it also was about an offensive line that helped the running game improve dramatically from 2021 – and helped the backs produce explosive runs at an impressive pace. The Jaguars improved from 103.2 yards a game rushing in 2021 to 124.4 yards per game in 2022 and had 15 runs of 20 yards or more. Etienne, who had nine of those runs, emerged as the starter in Week 6. But early in the season, then-Jaguars running back James Robinson turned in multiple big runs. The biggest? A 50-yard run against the Los Angeles Chargers, a play that gave the Jaguars a 23-10 lead early in the third quarter in what became a 38-10 road victory in Week 3.
- Clutch catch. Etienne spent much of the season as the Jaguars' primary back, starting the final 14 games and finishing the season with 1,125 yards and five touchdowns rushing on 220 carries. Playing a key role as a backup following Robinson being traded to the New York Jets in Week 5 was JaMycal Hasty, a third-year veteran who rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries in 2022. Hasty had multiple big moments, including a 61-yard run for a touchdown in a Week 6 34-27 road loss to the Indianapolis Colts. But Hasty's biggest play came in the passing game, when he caught a 28-yard touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens. The play came early in the second quarter and gave the Jaguars their first lead in a wild, come-from-behind 28-27 home victory in Week 12.
- Big-time production. Etienne moved into the starting lineup in mid-October, quickly emerging as a productive part of the offense. He rushed for more 465 yards in his first four starts from Weeks 6-9, and rushed for more than 100 yards in each game in Weeks 7-9 losses to the New York Giants and Denver Broncos and a home victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. While Etienne's biggest mark during 2022 came from explosive runs, one of his better games came in the victory over the Raiders when he was more workmanlike with 109 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. The 3.89-yard per carry average was the lowest in a game in which he rushed for more than 100 yards. But the performance was key for the Jaguars, who rallied from a 17-0 deficit for a 27-20 victory in a game that marked the start of their late-season run to the AFC South title. They were 2-6 entering that game and won seven of their last nine games.
- Sixty-two yards – and all the way. Etienne quickly proved an effective starter, rushing for more than 100 yards in six of 12 games from mid-October through the Jaguars' victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game. But while he showed a knack for explosive runs throughout the season, his first four touchdown runs were for seven, one, one and five yards. He also followed his three-game midseason streak of 100-yard-plus rushing games with a stretch in which he surpassed the mark once in six games. He snapped that streak in Week 17 with his most efficient game of the season – a 31-3 road victory over the Houston Texans in which he rushed nine times for 108 yards. He highlighted the performance with his longest run of the season, breaking through a huge hole in the left side of the line early in the second quarter for a 62-yard touchdown that gave the Jaguars a 14-0 lead.
- T-Formation. Etienne had a huge regular season in 2022, helping establish the Jaguars' running game as an element that could complement the passing game at times and produce huge plays in critical moments. But Etienne and the running game turned in their biggest moment in the biggest moment of the season's biggest victory. The Jaguars, after rallying from a 27-0 first-half deficit in the AFC Playoff game, still trailed 30-28 and faced fourth-and-one at the Chargers 41 with 1:28 remaining. The Jaguars lined up in the T-Formation, with Etienne left and behind quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Etienne, running right, took the handoff. He got strong blocks from tight end Chris Manhertz and wide receiver Zay Jones, then used his speed to outrace Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. for a 25-yard gain that set up kicker Riley Patterson's 36-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.