NFL

Is Jaguars’ James Robinson-Travis Etienne duo ready for a breakout?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It has only been a couple of weeks, so a true pattern of how the Jacksonville Jaguars are using running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne Jr. together hasn’t completely emerged yet.

But coach Doug Pederson has made it clear that he does want to get them both going.

“It’s either the hot hand or it’s just the way the plays are being called, who’s in the game,” Pederson said. “It’s not against one back or the other. They’re both going to get playing time. Both did an outstanding job again [against the Indianapolis Colts] in the run game. Travis [did] a little more in some of the screens and things like that to have an advantage there, but both are doing a really good job.”

The potential is there for Robinson and Etienne to form a pretty solid rotation — and maybe eventually have the same kind of impact that Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew had in 2006-08, when the two combined to rush for 5,437 yards and 45 touchdowns.

The Jaguars haven’t had two backs on the roster talented enough to warrant sharing the offensive workload at the same time, but in Robinson and Etienne, the Jaguars have two backs who complement each other — and an offensive coordinator willing to exploit that.

Robinson has run for 130 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 17 yards and another touchdown, while Etienne has 13 carries for 67 yards and five catches for 51 yards. The Jaguars used Etienne, who dropped a touchdown pass in the season opener, in the screen game against the Colts last Sunday while Robinson was used between the tackles.

“He [Robinson] is a little different runner than TJ [Etienne] and he fits a certain style of run game that we like, and TJ fits another style that we like, and you try to use both of them together,” said Pederson, who calls the offensive plays. “Be smart, and put them in situations where they can be successful, and that’s on us as coaches to do that.”

Pederson said no one should read into Robinson having significantly more touches through two games, and there will be days when Etienne will get featured in the game plan more than Robinson, depending on the matchup the Jaguars want to exploit that week.

One thing the Jaguars haven’t done is put Robinson and Etienne on the field at the same time. It’s coming, though.

“Football’s a game of matchups, and any time you can create a matchup and just dictate to the defense,” Etienne said. “I think you would definitely see me and James out there on the field a lot together, because we’re both playmakers and are both dynamic. A chance to get either one us the ball on one play presents a lot of challenges for the defense, because they don’t know what to attack.”

It took a bit for the Taylor-Jones-Drew duo to take off, as well. Taylor had rushed for at least 1,224 yards in three of his previous four seasons before the Jaguars drafted Jones-Drew out of UCLA in the second round in 2006, but it wasn’t until the third week of the season they got going.

Taylor had 43 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown and caught nine passes for 70 yards while Jones-Drew had four carries for 12 yards and two catches for six yards in the season’s first two games. That changed in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts: Taylor ran for 74 yards on 21 carries while Jones-Drew ran for 103 yards on 13 carries and caught four passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars’ 21-14 loss at Indianapolis.

Taylor finished that season with 1,146 yards and five touchdown rushing and 23 receptions for 242 yards and another score while Jones-Drew had 941 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing and 46 reception for 436 yards and two more touchdowns.

Robinson sees the same kind of potential with his teammate.

“It [a Robinson-Etienne one-two punch] is going to be really great for the offense,” he said. “His speed is crazy. I think we’re going to be great.”


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