JACKSONVILLE – In the second of a series examining the Jaguars' 2023 season, senior writer John Oehser examines the best moments for their running backs in their 9-8 AFC South runner-up season …
- One, then another. The Jaguars struggled to run at times in 2023. At other times, they were effective in big moments – and that was particularly true throughout the first half of the season. One such moment came against the Indianapolis Colts in the regular-season opener. The Jaguars rushed for 105 yards in the game, getting big plays in the running game when they needed them most. Rookie running back Tank Bigsby first set the tone with a power run on second-and-4 from the Colts five in the fourth quarter. Bigsby appeared stopped before pushing the pile five yards for a first down at the one. He then scored easily up the middle on the ensuing play. After cornerback Tyson Campbell intercepted Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson on the ensuing series, running back Travis Etienne Jr. tested the right side of the line before running around the left for a game-clinching 26-yard touchdown for the final 31-21 margin with 4:08 remaining. "You have to continue to stick with that," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said of the run offense. "It's [offensive line coach] Phil Rauscher, [offensive coordinator] Press [Taylor] and the offensive staff trusting in that and sticking to our guys as far as the run game goes."
- Powering through. Among the Jaguars' more impressive victories of the season came in Week 6 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against the Buffalo Bills. This was one of their more impressive running performances of the season, too. They rushed for 196 yards on 40 carries as a team, with Etienne capping a strong 93-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run for an 18-7 lead with 7:44 remaining. Etienne capped a 75-yard drive on the ensuing possession with a 35-yard run that gave the Jaguars a 25-13 lead with 2:56 remaining to secure a 25-20 victory. "You want your run game to be the closer, be the finisher," Etienne said.
- Staying hot. Etienne was one of the NFL's most-effective running backs in October – and he stayed that way as the Jaguars returned from back-to-back London games for a home game in Jacksonville against the Colts. Etienne in a 37-20 Jaguars victory rushed for two touchdowns for a second consecutive game, with his highlight play of the game coming early in the second quarter. Etienne on the play took a direct snap and said later of the play, "I knew when I ran it in practice, I was going to score." He was right. Etienne had capped a 75-yard drive one possession earlier with a 2-yard touchdown run. Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen then gave the Jaguars a first down on the Colts' 22 with a sack/fumble on Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew. Etienne then lined up directly behind center on the play, with quarterback Trevor Lawrence wide left. Etienne faked to Bigsby running left, then ran right and was touched by just one defender before scoring. "I already knew it was getting called," Etienne said. "It's a nice-red zone play. We had run it in practice and the defense gave me a nice, good look. It was a good misdirection, me just potentially faking the handoff to Tank. I can give it, so they've got to respect him also. Just giving me space with the offensive linemen in front of me, I like the odds."
- An early lead. The Jaguars' 31-24 victory Week 7 victory over the New Orleans Saints is best remembered for Lawrence's gutsy performance four days after a knee injury. But Etienne broke through for two first-half touchdowns, the first of which was a two-yard run that capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive on the game's first possession. Etienne then capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard touchdown run with 13:09 remaining in the second quarter for a 14-3 Jaguars lead.
- All. The. Way. Etienne turned in four two-touchdown games in 2023. The fourth came in the Jaguars' lone victory in their last six games, a 26-0 victory in Jacksonville over the Carolina Panthers on December 31. Etienne clinched the victory with a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, but his biggest run of the game – and of the season – came early in the third quarter. After a Panthers punt on the first play of the second half, the Jaguars took possession at their 34. Etienne on second-and-6 broke free over the right side of the line, then broke multiple tackles – and got multiple key blocks – on a 62-yard run down the sideline that pushed the lead to 16-0 with 11:56 remaining in the third quarter. "I just want to credit to my offensive linemen and receivers just doing a great job [on that play]," Etienne said. "It was [wide receiver] Parker [Washington] down field who made the great block for me and was able to spring me to the end zone. That is great team ball. Everyone was out there being unselfish and trying to win the game. I couldn't have done it without them."
Fight. On. The. Line. Swipe through best shots of the Jaguars offensive line in the 2023 season ➡️