Last season, it seemed like every 2013 Rams rookie had a so-called sophomore slump. For the Rams to have a successful 2014, that absolutely cannot happen again, especially with the team’s top ten pick, wide receiver Tavon Austin.
According to Jeff Fisher, he doesn’t think Austin will struggle like he did in 2013 and that he could make the leap.
“We’re not disappointed in what his production was last year at all,” Fisher said last week at the NFL Annual Meeting, per ESPN.com. “One of the things that was misleading was he had two or three returns called back — one against Dallas — and then he got hurt.
“I think another year in the program, in the offense, OTAs, training camp, you’ll see more production. I think we’ll do a better job of using him now that we know what he’s capable of doing. Kind of looking forward to see him improve from Year One to Year Two.”
Austin had 40 receptions for 418 yards and four touchdown catches in 2013. He also carried the ball nine times for 151 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run against the Bears and a punt return for a touchdown against the Colts.
Austin’s three touchdowns against the Colts put him in some pretty good company. He, Randy Moss and Gale Sayers are the only rookies to ever score three times in a game from 50 yards out or more. And in posting 140 or more yards from scrimmage and 140 or more yards as a punt returner, Austin joined Carolina’s Steve Smith as the only players in league history to hit those numbers in a single game.
Fisher is right about one thing, Austin did get snubbed by quite a few penalties last season, enough to at one point, frustrate the young playmaker. However, Austin finally got it going and made his mark on the NFL.
One thing that is concerning that Fisher said is that he thinks they will know how to use him better this season. As much as I hope so, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer isn’t necessarily on the most creative offensive coordinators in the game list.
Schotty had his moments last year, but for the most part it stayed pretty vanilla and therefore predictable. That could have been due to Sam Bradford’s injury, but that doesn’t mean the offensive coordinator won’t have a lot to prove in 2014.
There is no doubt Tavon Austin has the skill set to succeed at the NFL level as both a wide receiver and punt returner. Whether or not he can make the leap however will depend on the return of Sam Bradford, the Rams not committing penalties, and the play calling of Schottenheimer.
If Austin can overcome or avoid all that, he will have a big 2014. If Bradford gets hurt or has a disappointing season, the Rams continue to commit special teams penalties, and Brian Schottenheimer can’t use him in a creative way, Austin having a good 2014 will be unlikely.
The Rams moved up in the draft last season to get Austin and he has yet to really prove he was worth it. There is no doubt that the West Virginia wide receiver has potential, but next year he will need to step up and be the guy that the Rams expected when the drafted him.