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Tavon Austin returns to practice, in search of role within Rams offense

By in Press Enterprise on August 29, 2017

By Rich Hammond

THOUSAND OAKS — The Rams just got Tavon Austin out of the shop. The question now is, will Austin continue to spin his wheels in the NFL, or can Sean McVay turn him into a high-performance vehicle?

No one knows, even McVay, the Rams’ first-year coach who inherited Austin and his history of being a receiver full of potential, but one who has yet to reach it. McVay’s offense has drawn solid reviews for its innovation during the preseason, and adding Austin presents a challenge, but an intriguing one.

“He’s a special player,” McVay said after Monday’s practice at Cal Lutheran, “and we’ve got to find a way to get him touches and get him involved.”

McVay initially imagined Austin, a 5-foot-8 speedster, filling the outside, downfield-threat role DeSean Jackson played in Washington, where McVay worked as offensive coordinator. Then, Austin hurt his wrist a couple days into the Rams’ summer program and required surgery.

Austin returned for the start of training camp last month and, on the fourth day, hurt his hamstring. That sidelined him for almost four weeks and, in the interim, the Rams traded for receiver Sammy Watkins, a former 1,000-yard receiver who fit nicely into that role vacated by Austin.

Austin returned to some practice drills Monday, a man with an $11-million salary and no defined role.

“It’s competition,” Austin said. “That’s how it is. I haven’t been here since these coaches got here. I’ve only had four days in this offense, so I understand. It definitely doesn’t mean they don’t have plans for me.”

It stands to reason that McVay can figure out something to do with Austin, but what? Watkins is the clear deep threat, Robert Woods is a sure-handed, sideline-tiptoeing option and rookie Cooper Kupp has emerged as, based on preseason games, the favored option of quarterback Jared Goff.

Austin, preparing […]    

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