An interesting wrinkle first appeared in Jaguars minicamp, and judging by the dedication of Jacksonville's participants, it could become a staple of the team's offense.
Rookie running back Travis Etienne spent all three days of the May minicamp taking his reps at receiver instead of his usual backfield alignment. On the surface, the approach was initially peculiar -- why introduce a rookie runner to his first NFL reps at a completely new position? -- but new coach Urban Meyer boiled it down to a simple explanation: Either Etienne was going to improve as a pass-catching back, or he was just starting to become a hybrid type who could be a weapon on all downs.
As expected, the results as of July are inconclusive. But Etienne is doing more than what's expected of him, and luckily for him, he has a familiar face in former Clemson teammate and fellow 2021 draft selection Trevor Lawrence to help him improve his craft.
"Now I am just like kind of learning real receiver routes, and having Trev here to go just do simple things as run routes outside and just kind of go over it by ourselves, (it) has really been great for me and really helped me just speed up that process," Etienne said in a video produced by Panini America and posted to Etienne's Twitter page.
The additional work is common in today's NFL, a league in which its key players often gather with teammates for private workouts to sharpen their abilities before training camp begins. These gatherings often pay off on the field in the fall, and one even helped Peyton Manning set single-season passing yards and touchdowns records in 2013 (click here to watch an NFL Films-produced in-depth look at that particular summit).
But what Etienne and Lawrence are doing is slightly different. For one, though they both know each other quite well from their days at Clemson, neither has NFL experience. They're digesting the playbook as much as they're repping routes – and Etienne is learning two positions at once. Not to mention, their coach is new to this whole NFL thing, too.
Meyer has a history of attempting to broaden and utilize a player's skills at the college level. Washington receiver Curtis Samuel saw plenty of touches as both a running back and a receiver (and even saw some Wildcat carries) at Ohio State, and his dynamic abilities helped him land in Carolina via a second-round draft pick in 2017. He's since developed into a receiver with big-play potential and has retained the versatility that makes him a threat whenever he's on the field.
Meyer's offense doesn't quite mirror what we see from most NFL teams, but the wrinkles and pre-snap motions seen in Kansas City and beyond might also make their way to Jacksonville with Etienne at the center of them.
If anything, Lawrence already knows how to hand the ball to Etienne. And as the running back said recently, the two are learning how to connect with each other in other ways, too.