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Thunder and Lightning in Duval

The Jaguars running backs are dynamic and could raise the success of the offense to one of the best in the AFC.
Jaguars Running Backs

It was a little bit of a surprise that the Jaguars drafted Tank Bigsby in the third round of the NFL Draft. They have a young back in Travis Etienne, who had a great year, but more teams are moving to a two-back system. The Jaguars drafted Snoop Conner just last year, but they quickly found that he was not the answer. The question is how will both Etienne and Bigsby be used in this offense? The answer through preseason is both will be heavily involved and the Jaguars running backs could have a big year.

Jaguars Running Backs

Recent Dynamic Duo

The Saints really were the premier team in having a two-back system. In the first year together, Mark Ingram had 18 touches a game and Alvin Kamara added in 12 a game. I thought that was the plan for the Jaguars when they originally drafted Etienne. The only problem was Etienne would lose his rookie year to injury and then James Robinson was not the same after an Achilles injury. Now they truly may have their two backs that complement each other in Etienne and Bigsby.

Doug Pederson and RB Touches

Pederson was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for five years and always liked to spread the carries between multiple backs. The ratio of carries for the top running backs was 63% to 27%. In that time he never had a second running back as good as Bigsby. The closest was Jordan Howard in 2019, where it was 58% to 42% in carries.

Last year for the Jaguars, Pederson did not have the backs to implement this system. James Robinson was second in carries for the team and he was traded after game seven. Also, Etienne was 13th in the NFL in carries, and after his injury that is a definite concern. The Jaguars also had trouble in the red zone and on short-yardage conversions. That was in full display in the playoff game against the Chargers. On a big fourth-down play, they had to do an unconventional toss play to get the needed yardage.

Etienne and Bigsby

Etienne had a big year in 2022 and showed why the Jaguars selected him in the first round. He totaled over 250 touches and gained over 1,400 yards. He reminds me a lot of the same type of player as Miles Sanders for the Eagles when Pederson coached there. In the two years that Sanders was the number one back with Pederson, he averaged 56 receptions a year. So I see Etienne being the main receiving option out of the backfield and having at least 60% of the carries. Unlike Kamara, I think Etienne is better between the tackles and is tougher than his size would suggest.

Tank Bigsby came into college at Auburn with a great freshman season. The next two years Auburn struggled and Bigsby did not have the type of numbers many thought he would. Even with the ceiling not being reached, he showed on tape how great a back he could be. He is a physical runner and has the ability to take the ball in the distance. His game is a definite complement to Etienne and fills a need the Jaguars have. He can help in short-yardage situations and gives the Jaguars more options. Now it is not a disaster if Etienne misses time and will soften the defense with two very good backs. The one thing Bigsby needs to continue to work on is his tendency to bounce a lot of his runs outside.

We saw in the preseason that on drives both players would play. So, I think Bigsby will be involved throughout the game. The projection for the duo based on what we have seen should be 15-20 touches for Etienne and 8-12 touches for Bigsby. The duo of the Jaguars running backs could prove to be a force for years to come.

Main Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports


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