Jacksonville Jaguars should use Travis Etienne Jr. as a dual threat like Deebo Samuel and Alvin Kamara. – Jacksonville Jaguars Blog

JACKSONVILLE (Fla.) — Being considered the next Deebo Samuel The NFL's hottest thing right now is the NFL.

A player who has the ability to be both a playmaker and a runningback, is the default assumption that teams should use this dual threat? San Francisco 49ers Samuel was deployed by moving him around the formation in order to get the ball for him as a receiver who can also take handoffs.

That’s certainly the case with the Jacksonville JaguarsThe versatile running back that can catch passes and catch them. Travis Etienne Jr., who is completely healed from the Lisfranc injury that cost him his rookie season in 2021 and who looked smooth and fast during the team’s organized team activities this spring.

But that’s wrong.

It would be better to use Etienne in the same manner. New Orleans Saints Use Alvin KamaraAs a runningback, featured in the pass play.

“Whatever’s going to give us the best opportunity to put Travis in positions to succeed is what we’re going to do, whether that’s him as a receiver coming in the backfield or as a running back leaving the backfield to be a receiver,” Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said. “Whatever that may be, I think that kind of evolves as the season goes, or week by week even, really.”

Kamara is the NFL's greatest dual threat in five seasons. Since he entered the league in 2017 as a third-round pick out of Tennessee, he’s had the most catches (373) and receiving yards (3,263) by a Running back, scored the most touchdowns of any player (68), and his 7,501 yards from scrimmage trail only Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (7,636).

Kamara’s role didn’t need to evolve, because the Saints featured him heavily in the run and pass games immediately in 2017. He was second on the team in rushing (728 yards), receptions (81) and receiving yards (826) and was the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year. Mark Ingram II was the Saints’ featured back, rushing for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, and receiver Michael Thomas For 1,245 yards, 104 passes were caught.

Etienne is in Jacksonville in a similar circumstance.

Running back James Robinson is coming off a torn Achilles but is expected to be cleared during training camp, and he’s the Jaguars’ No. 1 back. The Jaguars don’t have a receiver like Thomas, but they did sign Christian Kirk in free agency to be the team’s No. 1 receiver. Doug Pederson, Taylor, and Etienne's head coach have also stated that they want Etienne to be in different positions and get the ball as often as possible.

Etienne, who hasn’t played in a game that mattered since Clemson’s College Football Playoff semifinal loss on Jan. 1, 2021, can’t wait.

“I’m sure they plan on getting the ball in my hands,” Etienne said. “I feel like I’m a special player with the ball in my hands.

“… I feel like I definitely have the [physical skills] It is possible to do so. My biggest goal is to go out Week 1, get it done, and be me again. However coach wants to use me, I’m willing to do it. I just want to help the team win games.”

It would be almost reckless to use Etienne as the Saints do with Kamara.

Because they needed to add some spark to an otherwise pedestrian offense, the team selected him 25th overall in 2021. The Jaguars were last in the NFL with 16 combined rushes of 20 or more yards and pass plays of 30 or more yards in 2020, per ESPN Stats & Information.

This is especially important considering Etienne was one the most explosive players during his four-year Clemson career. He was the NCAA's most prolific player, running 55 times for more than 20 yards between 2017 and 2020. He also ran for 2,053 yards rushing for 21 touchdowns. His average rush speed of 37.3 yards on big plays is 37.3. Etienne also had six receptions that were 30 or more yards. That gives him 61 exciting plays.

When Etienne went down with his foot injury during a preseason game against New Orleans on Aug. 23, it took away the Jaguars’ only big-play threat. The team was actually worse last season than it was in 2020 — 15 explosive plays (runs of 20 or more yards, receptions of 30 or more yards), one fewer than they had in 2020 despite playing an additional game, per ESPN Stats & Info — and the offense averaged a league-worst 13.8 points per game.

The hope is Etienne’s return makes a significant difference. It’s still early, but the Jaguars are encouraged.

“Gosh, it’s just exciting to get him out here and get him on the grass this whole offseason and really work with him,” Pederson said. “He’s doing a great job handling a lot of information we’re throwing at the guys and putting him in different spots. [We’re] just seeing what he can do right now.”

Etienne’s speed is what stands out: He ran 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day at Clemson, and it doesn’t appear the Lisfranc injury has impacted that. He looked as quick as he did when he was a rookie during the team’s OTAs, and that has Taylor eager to figure out ways to get some mismatches for him to exploit.

“The speed’s real,” Taylor said. “I mean that was obviously something everybody knew coming out of college not having a chance to see a lot of the stuff he was able to do last year because he wasn’t able to play, so the speed’s very real. He did a good job of just showing understanding of the different roles we’re trying to see. We’re throwing him in all different positions just to see what he’s comfortable with, what he needs to work on as we move forward, give him plans moving further into summer coming back for training camp.

“But he’s been really receptive to everything. He's shown an ability to grasp a lot of different things and show that he’s capable of doing things.”

Perhaps even Kamara-type items.

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