Travis Etienne is Jaguars top new weapon in 2021

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The Jacksonville Jaguars’ decision to use the 25th pick in last month’s NFL draft to select Clemson running back Travis Etienne blindsided many in the league. With the position decreasing in value every year and the performance of undrafted rookie James Robinson in 2020, it seemed like a move that ignored more pressing needs for the team.

But coach Urban Meyer definitely had a plan when he targeted Etienne, and the team has tipped its hand a bit with regard to what that plan is. The staff has referred to Etienne as a “slash” player, indicating that he will be used both in the backfield and as a wide receiver, in a similar role to the one held by Percy Harvin under Meyer at Florida.

And it’s for this reason that Etienne is considered the top new weapon added for the Jaguars this offseason, according to Bleacher Report (whose list didn’t include signal-callers).

The Jacksonville Jaguars made former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. While Lawrence will be the player opposing defenses game-plan for the most, fellow Clemson product Travis Etienne will create plenty of mismatches.

Lawrence loves what he has in his former and current teammate.

“I’ll say from my experience playing with Travis, from my first year to my third year, he just improved so much catching the ball,” Lawrence told Yahoo Sports’ Eric Edholm. “So much. Just put the film on, you’ll see him making plays. As each year went on, he was making more and more plays in the passing game. More confident and more dangerous.”

Etienne’s versatility will be a major asset for the Jaguars, as will his chemistry with Lawrence. He had 914 rushing yards, 588 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns last season and could see similar production as a rookie.

With running back James Robinson set to return after his own impressive rookie campaign, Etienne may not see as much backfield work as he did in 2020, but 1,000-plus scrimmage yards and double-digit touchdowns aren’t out of the question.

Between Robinson and Etienne, Jacksonville has one of the most formidable backfields in the league, and if Etienne is successful in playing out wide, he’s just another target for Lawrence. Etienne’s ability as a receiver would also add to a receivers group that already has D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault and free-agent addition Marvin Jones Jr.

Though Jacksonville finished 21st in passing yards per game and tied for 28th in rushing yards per game in 2020, those numbers were hindered by the lack of depth behind Robinson and injuries to quarterback Gardner Minshew.

With a much more developed rushing game to go with an upgrade at the most important position in Lawrence, this unit has the potential to take a major leap forward and be among the upper half of NFL offenses in 2021.