Travis Etienne playing wide receiver at Jaguars rookie minicamp

USA Today

The Jaguars bucked the trends by drafting a running back in the first round this year, but that running back might not actually play running back.

Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said today that Etienne is working at wide receiver at the Jaguars’ rookie minicamp. Meyer reasoned that Etienne is going to get a lot of passes thrown his way no matter where he lines up, and the Jaguars want to give Etienne all the experience he can get running pass routes.

“Worst case scenario you have a running back that’s elite with receiver skills,” Meyer said, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Etienne is going to prove to be elite in the NFL, either as a runner or a receiver. And it’s valid to ask why the Jaguars didn’t just draft a wide receiver if they wanted a wide receiver, instead of drafting a running back and playing him at wide receiver. (Meyer has admitted the player he really wanted to draft was wide receiver Kadarius Toney, whom the Giants selected.)

But the Jaguars have an abundance of running backs, with last year’s impressive undrafted rookie James Robinson and this year’s free agent signing Carlos Hyde. Etienne’s best bet for contributing as a rookie may be to play wide receiver.

39 responses to “Travis Etienne playing wide receiver at Jaguars rookie minicamp

  1. You can never have too many RBs. Good call getting the rookie some play time as a WR while the veterans take the trench punishment early in the season.

  2. Worst case might be a running back unequipped to follow blocks and find space. I get the sense maybe ol’Urbane got too caught up mentoring Tebow to yet another shot that he didn’t get around to assessing James Robinson’s tape until after the draft.

  3. A first round RB, 2nd round questionable CB, then 2 guys with torn ACLs and an Ohio State TE who was expected to go undrafted but Urban says he “comes from a nice family”. Then the Tebow saga unfolds; there was the coach he hired but then had to fire. Yeah, things are looking up here in Jacksonville.

  4. It’s rookie minicamp, this is a smart move because there won’t be as many WR reps available when the vets come back and Etienne will go to getting more RB reps when the full team is practicing.

  5. I have a feeling that Urban Meyer will be back coaching in College in a year or two.

  6. Hard to criticize a decision like this so early in the off-season but I will anyway. The whole organization just seems to have devolved into a college side show. Which was my expectation so I guess I should just run with it.

  7. Lots of criticism for what is actually a smart strategy this early in the year. The coaches know Etienne is a good running back. Giving him some reps as a WR is the only way to see if he might also be used lined up outside. Having that versatility would be a huge asset and a problem for defenses. Shifting from a one running back set to a four receiver set (if Etienne can play the position) would present a coverage mismatch for most defenses.

  8. I can’t believe people can actually criticize this move. All he’s doing is making it where, if Etienne is on the field, the defense doesn’t know where he’s going to line up. That seems pretty smart to me. Having a RB who can line up as a WR seems like a great thing. What’s the problem?

  9. The only thing good about the Jaguars last year was James Robinson. Then in the first round they drafted his replacement. Unreal.

  10. He’s a Eric Metcalf type player. You don’t pound him between the tackles. You get him out in space and limit him to 6-8 touches per game.

  11. theitalianarmy says:
    May 15, 2021 at 5:46 pm
    He’s a Eric Metcalf type player. You don’t pound him between the tackles. You get him out in space and limit him to 6-8 touches per game.

    If that was the case, he wouldn’t have been a first round pick.

  12. Not real sure why you do this with a first rd pick, but there is some logic here in terms of expanding his all around skill set as well as the matchup advantages that having both Etienne and Robinson on the field at the same time could present.

    And a hybrid, all purpose role as opposed to an every down workshorse might be Etienne’s best role at the NFL level. We all know what he can do in space, but with his body type I think there are real questions about his ablity to get yards after contact at the NFL level.

    He not as small as him, but for those old enough to remember Eric Metcalf, Etienne reminds me of him in many ways, and that kind of versatile offensive weapon. He doesn’t have the same kind of power that an Alvin Kamara or a Christian McCaffrey have, but his top end speed is better than either of those guys. Give him the ball in space with room to operate.

    If it doesn’t work out, oh well. Etienne has a ton of high level college experience (686 carries) in a pro style offense. Moving back to strictly RB would not be a problem for him.

  13. The thing is, RBs who can run solid routes help versatility, but the stats show that even the best RBs at running routes (formerly Lev Bell and now McCaffrey) don’t have the same value as ANY WR running those same routes. So putting a RB at WR, even the best ones, don’t even give you the value an average WR #4 or #5 would give you.

  14. No position is easy, but literally anybody can play Receiver. You dont have to be fast or big or a genius. Just communicate effectively with the QB and the Coaches, use those sticky gloves, and dont fumble. Etienne is a playmaker, teach him how to play the position early, I like it.

  15. This is not college football anymore coach…
    Then to tell the entire country that the guy they drafted was not actually who they wanted.

  16. I think it’s a brilliant idea. The NFL is definitely a QB league, and the Jaguars just drafted perhaps the highest rated QB to ever come out of college. It’s a league where the best QB’s win the majority of the super bowls. Travis Etienne is a great runner. If he gets a step on you, or even if he gets a half step, he’s gone. Trying to run through eleven defenders is tough. Catching a pass and only having to beat one or two guys is much easier. Urban Meyer probably figured out that it’s much better to get the ball to Etienne on the other side of the line of scrimmage, instead of handing it to him in the backfield. So with a TE like Tim Tebow, they’re probably not expecting him to line up and blow somebody off the ball. They’d more likely ask him to get out into space and put a body on a safety and try to spring guys like Etienne loose. Nobody is going to tell Urban Meyer how to go about winning football games, and he’s probably not asking. I have a feeling Urban Meyer is going to be putting on a clinic about how to go from the worst team to a championship team. I’m always interested in learning something, so I’m paying attention.

  17. Etienne will be a decent back but I wonder how much of that pick was about being to say “Hey we got our new star QB from Clemson….and his running back too.” Better value for backs in later rounds for a team with a lot of needs. Or at least I would gone with WR. Move up to take a Rashod Bateman to give him another decent outside target in addition to DJ Chark.

  18. Urban, that’s not how this works. It’s not Madden – you don’t just get to have him run receiver routes and make is RTE rating go up and then be an elite pass catching RB. Totally different routes are run from those positions. Playing WR is totally different from playing RB.

  19. charliecharger says:
    May 15, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Travis Etienne is a great runner. If he gets a step on you, or even if he gets a half step, he’s gone. Trying to run through eleven defenders is tough. Catching a pass and only having to beat one or two guys is much easier.


    What’s “easier” is running over, around, & through a bunch of guys just months removed from being in high school.
    There’s no guarantee he’s going to dominate NFL players the way he did players for the Citadel.

  20. Not a jags, osu or Florida fan, but it seems like whatever he does, all of you are going to crush him for it. Urban Meyer has burned a few bridges and nothing he can do will make the sad fans forget

  21. If Bill Belichick did this it would be called innovative, forward thinking, and getting the most out of his players. Let’s give Meyer the benefit of the doubt here.

  22. Jimmy Johnson also took a lot of criticism for his unorthodox college style approach. It worked out pretty well for the Cowboys.

  23. Meanwhile, Najee Harris says the Steelers are going to line him up at WR. Same thing! But somehow, if Urban Meyer does it, it’s all college stuff that won’t work in the NFL.

  24. He is a good athlete what is the big deal, no matter where he lines up. He will be an offensive weapon that can provide match-up problems for the defense.

  25. I don’t think a lot of people paid attention to the Jags last year. Robinson had a good year, but he was getting banged up by the end of it. There’s an extra game this year, and that just means more RB snaps.

    Plus, pass-catching isn’t his strength. Might as well see if Etienne can, especially since it’s still early in the league year.

  26. Travis Etienne will be the best RB in this draft. For all those touting James Robinson let me tell you ETN is a major upgrade. This kid can run between the tackles and get tough yards. He can catch the ball in space and make guys miss turning simple plays into huge gains. He gets to the second level often and if a defender misses a tackle or takes a bad angle, ETN will take it to the house, leaving all pursuers in the dust.

  27. At first I thought this was dumb, why would you do that to one of the best RB’s in the draft? Than I thought about where I would draft him in my PPR Fantasy League.

  28. It is really daffy. The Jaguars were literally the worst team in the league with holes everywhere EXCEPT running back so of course Urban drafts a running back he want to convert into a wideout. Insane.

  29. Take this with a grain of salt but I play old simulation football games which are mainly NFL 2k5, all pro football 2k8, and madden 08. Every offense I ever designed has had the use of a running back lining up out wide in every formation I can do it in built into it. I don’t understand in any way how you can judge an offensive design you have yet to see.

  30. It’s a 3 day mini camp, and they drafted a QB with the #1 overall pick. They have limited time, and only a fraction of a roster, so they probably decided to just do some work on the passing game. Some RB’s are catching 75-90 passes these days. It’s not unusual for RB’s to line up as a wide out.

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