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Jaguars OC Press Taylor believes RB Travis Etienne can handle heavy workload

The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense has been a bumpy ride through six weeks, but running back Travis Etienne has been a consistent force.

The Jags have leaned on Etienne for an NFL-high 113 carries. His 451 rush yards rank sixth in the NFL, and his five rushing touchdowns are tied for sixth. Etienne is one of four players with 450-plus rush yards and five-plus rush TDs (Christian McCaffrey, De'Von Achane, Kyren Williams).

The question is whether the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Etienne, who is on pace for 320 carries (blasting past last season's total of 220), can continue to handle that sort of workload.

"Yeah, he hasn't shown us he can't at this point in time," Jags offensive coordinator Press Taylor said Tuesday, via the official transcript. "Obviously, we like to spread the wealth and we like to continue with the hot hand, whatever that may be; pass game, run game. He's been a guy that is obviously a gamebreaker for us. He's been able to come through in those situations when we continue to give him the football. He has opportunities and he finds opportunities, he creates his own opportunities at times. We want to continue to give the ball to our best players at all times."

Etienne has keyed the Jags' past two wins, scoring two rushing touchdowns each week. He's the first Jags player with consecutive games of two-plus rush TDs since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2009 (no Jacksonville player has had three straight games of two-plus rush TDs).

Trevor Lawrence and the Jags' passing attack have ebbed and flowed this season, showing high upside at times but struggling to get on the same page at others. When the offense has gotten into trouble, they've leaned on Etienne. They'll need to do it again against a stout Saints defense.

According to Next Gen Stats, Etienne has gained +37 rushing yards over expected against stacked boxes (8+ defenders) this season (fourth), behind only McCaffrey (+47), Zack Moss (+41) and Isiah Pacheco (+37). The Saints have more than doubled their stacked box rate in the last three games: 15.5% (eighth-highest) -- Weeks 1-3: 7.7% (23rd).

Owning speed, Etienne has been at his most effective on outside runs (+31 RYOE outside vs. -8 RYOE inside). Outside: 52 carries, 217 yards, 4.2 YPC, 3 TDs, +31 RYOE. Inside: 60 carries, 228 yards, 3.8 YPC, 2 TDs, -8 RYOE.

Thursday night, with Lawrence dealing with a knee injury, Etienne will likely be asked to carry the load again against a Saints defense that ranks in the top 10 in yards allowed this season and has given up just one rushing TD.

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