The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking towards a promising future with third-year running back Etienne Jr. According to Head Coach Doug Pederson, Etienne Jr. is looking like he will improve quite a bit in the coming season.
"It's going to be a huge difference for him," Pederson said. This seems to be how most of the coaching staff feels. Etienne Jr. gained some serious experience in his first season, and those around him feel he is ready to be more involved than ever.
Drafted No. 25 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, Etienne wound up having to miss his rookie season due to a foot injury. Despite the setback, he quickly emerged as the starting running back for the Jaguars in 2022. He proved to be a consistent big-play runner and rushed for 1,125 yards and five touchdowns on 220 carries.
Running backs coach Bernie Parmalee believes that Etienne Jr.'s success stems from his understanding of the importance of patience and being in tune with the offensive line. This has been a primary focus of Etienne Jr.'s during the offseason, putting an emphasis on consistency and knowing when to find his line.
"As runners, you have to be in tune with those lines," Parmalee said. "You have to help set things up. You have to hit your landmarks. You have to press it. You have to understand how to leverage the linebackers. You have to understand the combination blocks of the linemen, who's working with whom to block whom, and you have to anticipate where the play may hit. You can hit the home run if you get it, but you want to be consistent."
Parmalee emphasized that Etienne Jr. demonstrates exceptional prowess in discerning when to burst through for significant gains, as well as when to strategically employ blocking to set up his runs.
"That's what we worked on this whole offseason: Understanding blocking schemes, understanding leverages of linebackers, understanding your read, understanding your track, being patient enough to press it."
Parmalee and Pederson affirmed that Etienne now has a strong ability to gauge his opportunities as a running back. Parmalee smiled when questioned about the potential for more remarkable plays in 2023 from Etienne Jr., who amassed 1,125 yards and five touchdowns on 220 carries during the 2022 season.
"There's a lot more – a lot more," Parmalee said. "We talked about it every day. He knows it, too. It's one thing when you talk about it as a coach and the player doesn't realize it. But when the player realizes what you're talking about is true and he's going to do everything he has to do to make sure he gets better, it's going to bode well."