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Jaguars position breakdown: Running backs will lighten the load on Lawrence

Jaguars running back James Robinson (30) escapes from Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara (95) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020 in Jacksonville.
Jaguars running back James Robinson (30) escapes from Detroit Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara (95) during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020 in Jacksonville. (Jacksonville Jaguars)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With training camp only a few weeks away, the News4Jax sports team is going to break down the Jaguars roster, position by position.

We started the series off by talking about Trevor Lawrence and the quarterbacks. Now, we look at a position group that can help take some of the pressure off Lawrence. Urban Meyer said earlier this offseason “how do you help a young quarterback? Well, the first answer is by having a solid running game.” 

Meyer is exactly right. And lucky for Lawrence, the Jaguars have a solid group of running backs.

Running backs on the roster

Nathan Cottrell, Travis Etienne Jr., Carlos Hyde, Dare Ogunbowale, Devine Ozigbo, James Robinson

Expected number on the Final Roster: Four

Running back is easy to judge at the top with three guys all looking like virtual locks (Hyde, Robinson and Etienne). Robinson and Etienne are 100% going to be on the roster this fall, and Hyde is a favorite of Meyer and likely has very little to worry about. 

That leaves three guys battling for that final running back slot. A fourth running back is far from a must on the roster but with a pair of guys that truly excel on special teams (Ogunbowale and Cottrell) it would be a surprise if one of them didn’t find a way to crack the roster.

Expected depth chart

James Robinson, Travis Etienne, Carlos Hyde, Dare Ogunbowale

At running back depth chart is less important than at some other positions because the carry split will be more about roles. I expect James Robinson to lead the backfield in carries but Etienne to lead the backfield in yards from scrimmage. That No. 1 jersey will be one to watch for all over the field and getting the ball in many different ways.

Robinson should be able to come close to equaling his rushing numbers from a year ago (1,070 yards) but will have to be very efficient if he wants to surpass them. Behind the two lead backs, Carlos Hyde will see some spot work possibly in short-yardage situations.

Seattle Seahawks running back Carlos Hyde (30) carries the ball during his 50-yard touchdown run against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Possible camp surprise

Devine Ozigbo

I know Jags fans, we went down this road last year but that is the thing. Last year almost just seems like Ozigbo got hit with some bad luck. After a strong training camp, Ozigbo seemed primed to split the carries with Robinson, but then a hamstring put him on the shelf. Then, Robinson blew up and the rest is history. Ozigbo won’t have a chance to earn the sort of role this year, but if he has another camp like in 2020, he could put some pressure on Carlos Hyde’s roster spot.


About the Author:

Jamal St. Cyr is an award-winning sports anchor who joined the News4Jax sports team in 2019.