JACKSONVILLE – He had a good year, a productive year.
That doesn't mean Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr.was satisfied with his 2023 season – nor does it mean the Jaguars' running game overall can't improve.
"I assess it as it wasn't good enough," Etienne said.
Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, turned in a strong season in his second season as the Jaguars' No. 1 running back. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season in 2023, also rushing for double-digit touchdowns. When the Jaguars ran well, Etienne was a major factor.
The Jaguars as a team finished 24th in the NFL in rushing in 2023 at 96.8 yards per game. Their 3.6-yards-per-carry average ranked 31st of 32 teams.
The Jaguars, after rushing for 100 yards or more in seven of the first 10 game en route to a 7-3 start, rushed for more than 100 yards once after that. Their lone 100-yard rushing game in December and January came against the Carolina Panthers, their lone victory in a six-game season-ending stretch.
"There are a lot of things we have to do better honestly, but obviously the run game is a huge part of it," Jaguars tight end Evan Engram said. "You have to run the ball to win in this league. We as a unit – as a tight end that's a huge part of the run game, that's a huge addition and partner with the offensive line – we didn't do well enough.
"I think there are a lot of things to look in the mirror at and attack the improvements of. We have to identify those things and attack the improvement."
The Jaguars in 2023 converted 14 of 21 third-and-one situations (66.67 percent) and one of four third-and-two situations (25 percent) with running plays. They converted five of eight fourth-and-1 situations (62.5) with runs. Their 20 third downs converted with runs ranked 26th in the NFL.
"I think it's no secret that we weren't great in short yardage this year," quarterback Trevor Lawrencesaid. "A lot goes into that. That's passing game. That's running game. That's a lot of different things that go into that. Every play is a little different, why you don't have success. That's something obviously we need to get better at.
"I don't have the exact answer for what that is right now, but it's something we're going to look at this offseason. I know our staff is going to look at and figure out how we get better. We need to be able to get those, especially when the game is on the line."
Etienne when discussing his own season spoke extensively of team goals, saying, "I felt like I needed more. I wanted to be in the playoffs. That's why I got into this game. That's why I play it and that didn't meet the requirements to be in the playoffs this year.
"I have to find ways to continue to improve my game, to get better, so that next year I'm in the playoffs we're in the playoffs and we're playing for something."
Etienne, who rushed for 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2023, throughout this past season spoke of having improved as a runner from the 2022 season. He worked throughout the 2023 offseason toward that end on fundamentals such as footwork when approaching the line of scrimmage and body positioning. He said this offseason will be about continuing that progression.
"I feel like there's always room for growth," he said. "I can go on film and just look at myself and just understand where I need to get better, just things that I could continue to work on and continue to improve my game in the right atmosphere. The moment you stop learning, the moment you stop growing, you might as well say you're finished."
- Lawrence on whether he believes the team has the pieces to be strong moving forward: "I do. I believe that. You saw that at times this year and that's part of the disappointing thing. We do believe we have a good team, possibly a great team. We have the players to be great and that's what is disappointing; we weren't this year. It's just the reality of it: We weren't and we put that on the field and that was clear in a lot of games. That's something where we have to improve. I do think we have a lot of the right pieces and players to be a great team and to do everything we want to do moving forward. We have to be better, too. Everyone individually has to get better and that will make us better as a team."