JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' running back position in this position-by-position look at the '23 offseason:
Position: Running back.
- Position coach: Bernie Parmalee.
- 2022 starters: Travis Etienne Jr. (12), James Robinson (5).
- Others: JaMycal Hasty, Snoop Conner, Mekhi Sargent, Qadree Ollison.
2022 At A Glance
The '22 season was one of change here, with Etienne – the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft – emerging as the No. 1/go-to running back and Robinson being traded to the New York Jets after leading the team in rushing the previous two seasons. Etienne's speed, physicality and missability – and a strong season from the Jaguars' offensive line -- enabled him to rush for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns on 220 carries in 2022. He moved into the starting lineup in Week 6 and didn't miss a start after that. Hasty – a third-year veteran – proved a capable backup and big-play threats in his first season with the organization, rushing for 194 yards and two touchdowns on 46 carries and catching 20 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. Conner, a fifth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, played in eight games and rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Robinson rushed for 340 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries before being traded on October 24. The Jaguars finished 14th in the NFL in rushing at 124.5 yards per game.
The Jaguars may not make major moves here, with Etienne emerging as a front-line playmaker with game-breaking speed – and with Hasty emerging as a capable backup to Etienne capable of big plays in the running and passing game. Hasty and Conner were solid depth behind Etienne. Do the Jaguars want to add another every-down player here? Do they need one more dynamic playmaker for an offense that strives on balance and versatility at the position? Is there enough depth at a position that was remarkably healthy in 2022? Free agency and the draft could go far toward answering those questions.
Free agents as of March 15: Hasty (restricted).
Bucky Brooks' Top Three Free-Agent Running Backs:
- Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys
- Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
- Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Bucky Brooks' Top Three Collegiate Running Back Prospects:
- Bijan Robinson, Texas
- Jamyr Gibbs, Alabama
- Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
Oehser Analysis: This is an intriguing position for the Jaguars moving forward – and it may not be a spot of major need this offseason. Etienne emerged as one of the NFL's best – and most-consistent – young big-play running backs, showing an impressive knack for explosive runs. He returned from the Lisfranc injury that cost him his rookie season, showed no aftereffects of the injury and appeared to gain confidence as the season continued. Etienne said after the season he wants to return bigger, stronger and faster next season – and that he improved in 2022 as the season continues. As it was, Etienne had a remarkable season for a player in his first NFL season – particularly one coming off a potentially career-altering injury. He also proved a remarkably good fit for Head Coach Doug Pederson's system, as well as being a physical back and proving to be a hard runner for a back his size. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Jaguars add an every-down running back in the later rounds of the draft, but they may see the combination of Hasty and Conner being able to provide that element.
Brooks Analysis: Etienne showed the football world that he could handle the workload as a lead back in the Jaguars' offense. The second-year pro flashed big-play ability as a runner with speed and burst to take it the distance while also flashing enough power and pop to pick up the tough yardage between the tackles. As Etienne becomes more involved in the passing game as a primary target on screens and swings, the Jaguars' RB1 could put up 2,000-plus scrimmage yards in the 2023 campaign. The emergence of Hasty as a dynamic change of pace back prompted the team to move on from Robinson in the middle of the season. The third-year pro added some juice to the offense with his speed, quickness, and burst. Pederson's creativity as a play caller, the Jaguars could feature a 1-2 punch in the backfield that creates and exploits mismatches all over the field. Snoop Conner did not log significant snaps, but he will have a chance to carve out a role as a short-yardage specialist/special teams contributor in training camp.