When the Rams traded up from No. 16 to No. 8 in the 2013 draft to land receiver Tavon Austin, high expectations for the coming season became set in stone.
Through five weeks, Austin has 23 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging a mere 6.8 yards per catch, with a long of 25. He also has a 3.4-yard punt return average on 17 attempts, with a long of only 14.
Sunday’s game against the Jaguars included two dropped passes and 72 punt-return yards wiped out by illegal blocks.
The numbers match the eyeballs; Austin has yet to show the kind of uncanny separation skills that allowed him to explode past defenders and special-teamers at West Virginia.
The less-than-expected production coupled with a quick exit from the locker room on Sunday prompted speculation that Austin isn’t happy with the start of his NFL career.
“I definitely was not frustrated,” Austin said Wednesday, via the Associated Press. “I just got up and I had family outside. I wasn’t frustrated at all. We got the win and that’s all that matters.”
His quarterback Sam Bradford nevertheless assumes that Austin is disappointed by his production, and by his role.
“I think if you ask him, he’s probably frustrated,” Bradford said. “I know that his role here is probably a little bit different than that we pictured and what he was used to at West Virginia.”
(We would have asked Austin directly on Tuesday, but the Rams pulled the plug on an off-day media tour Austin had committed to do on behalf of the Pepsi NEXT Rookie of the Week campaign, resulting in short-notice cancellations for PFT Live and The Dan Patrick Show.)
Austin nevertheless received a special-teams game ball for his efforts on Sunday, and coach Jeff Fisher has pointed out that Austin would have 254 return yards and a long of 84 but for the penalties committed by teammates.
While that may help Austin feel better about his performance, Austin’s teammates likely won’t be thrilled about being called out publicly by the coach in order to help prop up a rookie who isn’t making the impact that everyone had envisioned.