Selecting Travis Etienne in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft seemed to be a head scratcher for the Jacksonville Jaguars, considering the team had a record-setting rookie running back in James Robinson already on the roster. While Etienne has already been declared a "third down running back" by Urban Meyer, the head coach finally revealed what that meant for Etienne's rookie season -- and how he'll get on the field in 2021.
Meyer is having Etienne learn a new position, one that uses his strengths to the best of his ability. Etienne is strictly a wide receiver at Jaguars rookie minicamp, despite all his success as a running back in the ACC.
"That's the reason we drafted him is the opportunity to be a dual threat guy and our history as long as we've had a guy like that and we saw him as a guy like that in the draft this year," Meyer said on a conference call at Jaguars rookie minicamp. "Right now we're focusing on the fundamentals of wide receiver play, learning the offense from wide receiver.
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"Like I said, worst case scenario is you have a running back that's elite with receiver skills and best case scenario he's a legitimate dual threat guy."
While playing Etienne at wide receiver is unconventional, it actually makes some sense considering the depth of the Jaguars backfield. This allows Robinson to remain the No. 1 running back without taking him off the field in favor of Etienne, even allowing Jacksonville to keep both on the field and creating different sub-packages. Carlos Hyde is the No. 2 running back on the depth chart and can be utilized as a running back in the same way as Robinson with Etienne at his new position.
Of course Etienne will get some carries too, but running backs in today's NFL are essentially dual threats. Etienne is certainly on board with what Meyer is doing.
"I feel like I create a problem outside for a linebacker, so I feel like football is a game of matchups. We're just trying to get the best matchups for us to go out there and make plays and do what's best for the team," Etienne said. "I feel like if I really hone in on my skills and just keep working at it, work on my route running ability and really focus in on what the plan is and buy into that, we'll make plays, we're playmakers.
"I feel like, like I said, football is a game of matchups, and this creates the best matchups for us."
The best part about rookie minicamp is Etienne can work on his new position. Etienne is confident he can be a good receiver in the NFL, specifically if he improves his route running over the next four months.
"I feel like I'm a great athlete, so I'm able to naturally do things, but it's getting that repetition, getting that work in with the receiver coach and really working on my technique," Etienne said. "Once I get that down, I feel like I can be as good of a route runner as anyone."
No player on the Jaguars roster knows Etienne like No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. The franchise quarterback more than approves over his newest weapon in the passing game, making his chances at succeeding in the NFL that much greater.
"It's different, it's awesome. I'm glad he's getting to work that and getting those reps right now," Lawrence said. "He's just a dynamic player, he can do a lot of different things, but that's something that he's not very used to. And at Clemson, he was pretty much in the back field all the time. He ran a lot of routes out of the back field, but splitting out wide is something he hasn't done a lot. So, it's cool seeing him out there, working, learning something new and just [seeing] the improvements he makes every day is really cool.
"So, [I'm] excited for that and we've just got a bunch of good players out there that are flying around and it's been fun to watch."