In new Rams offense, has Tavon Austin finally found his ideal role?
By Ryan Kartje
THOUSAND OAKS — He had all the makings of a once-in-a-generation star — a first-of-his-kind receiver-slash-returner-slash-weaponized game-changer who could cut on a dime and score from anywhere on the field, at any time. Tavon Austin was unlike anything the Rams had seen before. They fell in love with that mystifying potential, drafting him eighth overall in 2013, 19 picks ahead of future Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins, and for four years, team officials foretold of Austin’s breakout, even as his role remained in constant flux.
By last August, Austin had yet to tally 500 receiving yards in a season or average more than three catches per game. Still, the Rams believed — so much so, that they pushed their chips to the center of the table, betting big on the unfulfilled promise of their pint-sized playmaker.
With a year left on his rookie contract, the Rams signed Austin to a 4-year, $42-million extension. The deal raised eyebrows around the NFL, as it made Austin one of the league’s highest-paid receivers. In 2017, his salary cap hit exceeds the likes of perennial All-Pros Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and A.J. Green.
That gamble — so far, at least — has been a bust. Former coach Jeff Fisher predicted Austin would reach 100 catches last season, but he reeled in just 58 — many of them at or near the line of scrimmage. Austin’s 10 touchdowns from 2015 plummeted to four.
This season, as Sean McVay replaced Fisher and new weapons were added to a more explosive offense, the team’s highest-paid offensive player has barely seen the field. Through one month, Austin has just two catches for five yards. He’s played 18 percent of the Rams’ offensive snaps, 46 total — three fewer than rookie Cooper Kupp saw last week alone. Just over a year from his massive […]