In a surprising roster shakeup, the Jacksonville Jaguars have announced the release of running back JaMycal Hasty just months after securing his services with a contract extension. The decision underscores the team's dynamic approach to managing its lineup as they activate cornerback Gregory Junior from injured reserve to fill the vacated slot.
Hasty, an undrafted free agent out of Baylor, began his NFL journey with the San Francisco 49ers in 2020, where he carved out a role for himself, contributing notably on special teams while also providing depth on offence.
Despite his limited opportunities, he impressed with a solid average of 4.8 yards per carry across his 85 touches over two seasons. The Jaguars picked up Hasty off waivers before the 2022 season, and he quickly ascended the depth chart to become the primary backup for star running back Travis Etienne, especially after James Robinson's departure.
His tenure with the Jaguars peaked last season when he played in all 17 games, amassing 320 yards from scrimmage and securing three touchdowns, complemented by a postseason contribution of 43 yards on five touches. This performance earned him a vote of confidence from the Jaguars, manifested in a contract extension in February.
Jaguars' Backfield Transformation
However, the landscape of the Jaguars' backfield has transformed in the 2023 season, with rookie sensation Tank Bigsby emerging as the preferred choice behind Etienne. Hasty found himself outpaced not only by Bigsby but also by the versatile D'Ernest Johnson, relegating Hasty primarily to special teams duties in his three appearances this season.
Gregory Junior, an alumnus of Ouachita Baptist and a sixth-round draft pick by the Jaguars in 2022, steps into the spotlight as he returns from a hamstring injury sustained in the first week. Junior's rookie season was primarily spent honing his skills on the practice squad, save for a single game where he registered six tackles.
His return from the injured reserve is timely for a Jaguars defence eager to bolster their secondary as they strategize for the remainder of the season. This move by the Jaguars reflects a broader strategy within the NFL of continuous roster optimization.
For Hasty, this release marks a new chapter and a chance for a fresh start, as teams may be looking for a seasoned special teamer with offensive experience. Meanwhile, the Jaguars' recalibration of their roster spotlights their commitment to adaptability and depth, particularly in their defensive backfield, as they make a concerted push towards the playoffs.