Head coach Doug Pederson confirmed that Etienne will be “set to work without restrictions” when OTAs begin this week. That will be a welcomed sign for the 2021 first-rounder, whom the team selected with the hopes of continuing the success he had with quarterback Trevor Lawrenceat Clemson. A Lisfranc injury cost him his entire rookie campaign, however, and the team’s offense finished with the lowest point total in the league.
The 23-year-old provided an encouraging update in February, when he first began working out again. That pointed to a recovery in time for at least training camp, which would of course have a significant effect on the team’s running game and re-vamped offense in general. With James Robinsonhaving suffered an Achilles injury in December, Etienne would likely be in line for a starter’s workload right away in 2022.
There were more positive signs in April, when Etienne returned to on-field drills. At that time, he confirmed that his recovery was still headed in the right direction. “If I didn’t know I had a screw in my foot, I couldn’t tell”, he said, adding that he was leaning towards having the screw removed. Regardless of his decision on that front, his return to full on-field work will provide Pederson with another intriguing young option as the Jaguars look to take a step forward in 2022.
After having to sit out his entire rookie season with a foot injury,Travis Etienne believes he’s just about back to full health. According to ESPN’s Michael DiRocco, the Jaguars running back expects to be fully cleared by the time training camp comes around.
Etienne is already participating in his team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program with new head coach Doug Pederson. The running back estimated that he’s 85-90% recovered from his Lisfranc injury, and while he’s still limited “in some of his weight-room work,” he’s been able to take part in most of the on-field drills.
“If I didn’t know I had a screw in my foot, I couldn’t tell,” Etienne said of his recovery (via DiRocco). “I feel like that’s a testament to where I’m at in my transition and how I’m healing.
“The screw is there. I think I will take it out. I could leave it there forever. I know most guys say leave it there, it never bothers them, but I just don’t want to be 40 years old with a screw in my foot, really.”
Considered a top prospect in the 2020 class, the Clemson product surprised many by returning for his senior season. His yards-per-carry figure dropped from 7.8 to 5.4, which probably helped the Jaguars secure him towards the end of the first round at No. 25. Despite the dropoff, he still had two 1,600-yard seasons and 70 career rushing TDs to his credit. As DiRocco writes, former head coach Urban Meyer was expected to use the rookie in “a Percy Harvin-type role,” but the preseason foot injury ended up knocking out the running back for the entire season. Of course, the injury also meant Etienne didn’t have to really deal with the turmoil surround Meyer’s brief tenure in Jacksonville, providing him with a clean slate heading into the 2022 campaign.
“Just seeing the results, you’re definitely like, ‘Whew, if there was any year to miss, I missed a great one,'” he told DiRocco.
With a new coaching staff in place, it will be interesting to see how Etienne is utilized during his first NFL season. Fellow RB James Robinson suffered an Achilles injury in December, so Etienne could find himself getting the bulk of the carries early in the season.
We wrote a bit in January about NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu potentially being the best offensive lineman in the draft. Well, he certainly thinks so, as he told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday that he’d “definitely deserve” to be drafted No. 1 overall, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com.
There’s already been a bit of talk connecting Ekwonu to the Jaguars. General manager Trent Baalke has a tendency to prefer explosive linemen and Ekwonu demonstrated his explosiveness in field drills including an impressive sub-5.00 second 40-yard dash. Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson will be looking to put together a group at offensive line that can protect former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and create holes for running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne.
Jawaan Taylor is expected to compete with Walker Little for the right tackle job. Captain Brandon Linder should return to form at center after MCL and ankle injuries forced him to miss a large part of the 2021 NFL season. Andrew Norwell is expected to hit the free agent market and Cam Robinson could join him if the team decides not to utilize their franchise tag on Robinson for the second straight year. Veteran sixth-man Tyler Shatley was recently re-signed and Ben Bartch could help out at guard. So the versatility of Ekwonu could line him up as the perfect choice for Jacksonville’s current situation, where lots of question marks surround the depth chart. Even so, the Jaguars could also fall in love with Evan Neal, who is largely seen as the top pure tackle in the draft.
Still, the redshirt sophomore out of Raleigh is a young, talented prospect with the ability to dominate at tackle or guard. Even if he slips past Jacksonville at No. 1 overall, don’t expect him to be available after both New York teams get a chance to draft. Ekwonu will aim to be only the third Wolfpack offensive lineman in history to be picked in the first round, the highest-drafted Wolfpack prospect since Bradley Chubb in 2018, and, above that, the first top overall pick out of NC State since Mario Williams in 2006.
February 18th, 2022 at 12:43pm CST by Adam La Rose
Things didn’t go according to plan for the Jaguars in 2021, but with an new head coach in Doug Pederson, former first-overall pick Trevor Lawrence and a second straight No. 1 pick this April, there is plenty of cause for optimism in Duval County. Another reason the team may take a step forward in 2022 is the expected return of running back Travis Etienne. According to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, he is making progress towards being available to start the season.
The other first round pick of the Jaguars in 2021, Etienne missed his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury. That was a huge blow to the team’s offense, considering not only the talent he displayed in an illustrious career at Clemson, but his connection with Lawrence. In his absence – and, later on, that of fellow RB James Robinson – the Jags finished last in the NFL in points per game in 2021, with 14.9. Their rushing average (103 yards per game), while more respectable, would certainly stand to improve with a health halfback tandem.
“My foot is doing much better“, the 23-year-old said in a recent interview. “[I] really just got back into the gym for the first time… So that’s been good and I’ve been running for a while now. I’m kind of getting to that 80% to 85% range. Definitely, just heading in the right direction”.
With a new coaching staff that will be focused in large part on rebuilding the team’s offense, much is expected of the unit in 2022. New offensive coordinator PressTaylor, Alper notes, didn’t specify if former HC Urban Meyer‘s plan to use Etienne at wideout would remain in place. Regardless of how he is deployed, the ex-Tigers star would provide a much-needed boost to Jacksonville if he is able to fully recover.
We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list today. In some instances (including Christian McCaffrey and Travis Etienne), players activated from the list remain on IR:
2:33pm: Etienne’s injury Monday night will knock him out for the season. The Jaguars placed the Clemson product on injured reserve. While the NFL is again allowing players to return from IR after three weeks, that only applies after the season begins. Due to landing on IR now, Etienne cannot play for the Jags until 2022. This certainly marks a brutal blow for a player who was on the 2020 first-round radar but opted to return for his senior season.
Jacksonville has the depth to withstand this blow, but after surprisingly selecting Etienne in Round 1, the team is now down a key asset that stood to help Trevor Lawrence. Etienne and Lawrence starred together at the ACC powerhouse for the past three years. Etienne’s four-year, $12.898MM rookie contract is fully guaranteed.
1:31pm: Jaguars first-round running back Travis Etienne has been diagnosed with a serious Lisfranc injury that will sideline him for several months (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Doctors will monitor his progress from here, but the injury is a potential season ender.
The injury forced him out of Monday night’s preseason loss to the Saints. At minimum, doctors say Etienne will be out for 12 weeks following surgery. Considered a top prospect in the 2020 class, the Clemson product surprised many by returning for his senior season. His yards-per-carry figure dropped from 7.8 to 5.4, which probably helped the Jaguars secure him at No. 25 overall.
Despite the dropoff, the Jags were excited to add him given his upside, 1,600-yard seasons (2x), and 70 career rushing TDs. Even though he was outshined by Alabama’s Najee Harris last year, he’s a solid prospect in his own right. Some scouts say that Etienne even improved in certain parts of the game, like receiving and pass blocking.
The Jaguars have agreed to terms with first-round running back Travis Etienne (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). As the No. 25 overall pick, he’ll earn $12.9MM on his four-year deal. Etienne doesn’t have any offset language in his contract, just like No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
With Etienne, Lawrence, and new head coach Urban Meyer in the fold, things are looking up for the Jaguars after last year’s freefall. Considered a top prospect in the 2020 class, the Clemson product surprised many by returning for his senior season. His yards-per-carry figure dropped from 7.8 to 5.4, which probably helped the Jaguars secure him towards the end of the first round.
Despite the dropoff, he’s got two 1,600-yard seasons and 70 career rushing TDs to his credit. Even though he was outshined by Alabama’s Najee Harris, the Jaguars are still high on his potential. Some scouts say that Etienne even improved in certain parts of the game, like receiving and pass blocking.
At 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, the rookie has the strength, speed, versatility, and elusiveness to become a three-down back. Now, he’ll fight for time in an RB group that also includes rising star James Robinson and veteran Carlos Hyde.
Quarterbacks, per usual, dominated this year’s pre-draft coverage. The Falcons made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, and four wide receivers then went off the board in the top 20. Running backs, as they have done in a few drafts over the past decade, waited.
While two went in Round 1, the Jaguars’ Travis Etienne pick preceded a 60-pick stretch during which just one running back — the Broncos’ Javonte Williamschoice — went off the board. The 2021 draft matches 2016 and 2003 for the fewest backs chosen in the top 80 (three) in the common draft era (1967-present), continuing a grim era for this once-storied position. But several of this year’s draftees have quick paths to key roles.
Linked toNajee Harrisahead of the draft, the Steelers took the Alabama standout at No. 24. Harris will join a Steelers team that ranked last in rushing in 2020. Although the Alabama product scored 30 touchdowns in his senior season and topped 1,200 rushing yards in two straight years, he will now play behind an offensive line that went through considerable turnover this offseason. The Steelers lost 17 Pro Bowls on their offensive line this year. They will replace Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva with far less experienced players, and David DeCastro‘s replacement (Trai Turner) struggled in 2020. Will Harris’ talent be enough to overcome significant O-line concerns in Pittsburgh?
Etienne joins a Jags team that just saw James Robinson set the rookie UDFA record for scrimmage yards (1,414) despite missing two games in 2020. Jacksonville also signed Carlos Hyde, who played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Etienne spent time at receiver during the Jags’ offseason program but should be expected to contribute heavily in the backfield. Like Harris, Etienne stayed in college for four years. He twice surpassed 1,600 rushing yards and totaled 78 college TDs — most of which coming alongside No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence— but will this unusual setup (for a first-round back, that is) translate to rookie-year production?
The Broncos traded up four spots for Williams in Round 2, Pro Football Focus’ top-rated back in this class, and chose the North Carolina product 36th overall. Williams teamed with Jets draftee Michael Carterto form one of the nation’s top backfield tandems. Williams compiled just one 1,000-yard season with the Tar Heels but led Division I-FBS with 75 broken tackles in 2020. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon signed through 2021, but the John Elway-era addition does not appear to be a lock to hold off Williams for the starting role.
The rest of the rookie field includes third-rounder Trey Sermon(49ers), Carter (fourth round, Jets) and a host of backs ticketed for early-career backup roles. While injuries certainly will hit the running back position, potentially forcing some of the later-round picks into the fray, Sermon and Carter have the best bets of seeing steady action among the mid- and late-round selections.
An Oklahoma and Ohio State product, Sermon also played four years. He averaged more than seven yards per carry in each of his past two, though he never topped 1,000 on the ground. Lead 49ers back Raheem Mostert is coming off an injury-marred season. The Jets added Tevin Coleman, who joined Mostert in missing most of last season, but do not have another back with much experience. This could allow Carter (two 1,000-yard years at North Carolina) early upward mobility, despite his 5-foot-8 frame.
Which rookie back will rush for the most yards in 2021? Who are the later-round candidates or UDFAs who can join these players as early contributors? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
This isn’t a huge cause for concern, as first-round contracts are pretty standard and by-the-book. However, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has an explanation for why at least a handful of these players still haven’t put pen to paper. According to the reporter (via Twitter), there are still some “wrinkles to work out” for the notable quarterback deals. This sentiment would presumably apply to each of the top-three picks, and it could even be referring to Patriots first-round quarterback Mac Jones.
There’s a number of minor details that agents could be pushing for, including signing bonus terms or any other contract language that goes beyond the standard, boilerplate options. On the other side, teams could be pushing for some type of offset language, meaning the organization would get some financial flexibility if the player for some reason doesn’t finish their rookie contract with the team.
When it comes to the quarterbacks, most of the agents are probably waiting to see how Lawrence’s deal unfolds in Jacksonville. Alternatively, if Bill Belichick and the Patriots (somehow) give in to any demands from Jones camp, you can bet the top-three QBs would argue for similar benefits. While there are a number of reasons why the other, non-QB players have yet to sign, one could guess that the two offensive lineman may be pushing for similar terms (Vera-Tucker could also simply be waiting for his teammate to sign their contract). Etienne is in a unique position as one of only two first-round running backs (or, like Vera-Tucker, he could be waiting for his teammate), while Newsome recently fired his agent.
The teams and the players will want the contracts settled prior to training camp in late-July, but that still leaves a few weeks for negotiating.
DE Joe Tryon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 32 overall)
In a sense, this is a sign that things are back to normal in football following the pandemic. For example, by June 12th of 2019, 22 first-round picks had put pen to paper, with 222 rookies inked on the whole. However, around this time last year, there were just two first-round picks officially in the fold – Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Panthers defensive lineman Derrick Brown.
Offset language and similar minutia could be holding these ten deals up, but there’s no reason to panic. In all likelihood, these rookie contracts will be squared away before the start of training camp this summer.