Rams receiver Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, has for the most part underachieved during his time in the NFL, despite securing a contract extension a year ago. Now, a new coaching staff has arrived, Austin has been absent after wrist surgery, and plenty of new receivers have been added. So what does it mean for Austin?
“I think we have ideas of the way that we want to utilize him,” coach Sean McVay told reporters on Wednesday. “I think he’s done a lot of great things on tape, but until you’re actually able to get out on the grass with him, watch him do some of the things that we’re asking him to do, it does make it a little bit more difficult. But we’re certainly projecting him to be a big part of our offense. How exactly we use him is to be determined, but we have discussed those things as a staff. We’ll get a chance to see that early on in training camp.”
For now, McVay and company haven’t been able to study Austin because he hasn’t been able to practice, due to the wrist surgery.
“I think he’s done a good job of controlling what he can control and that’s working and doing as much as he could with the limitations that he had with the wrist,” coach Sean McVay told reporters on Wednesday. “I think he’s done a great job in meetings, where he knows exactly what’s going on. Then, when you get to those physical reps, as soon as he’s able to with [head athletic trainer] Reggie [Scott] and the training staff, catch footballs from a quarterback and do some of those things that you’re going to do, the better. He’s a guy that’s real conscientious, he’s going to get himself ready to go. I think that’s some of the things he can do in the meantime to kind of give himself a jump start so the first time catching live routes and things like that instead of just the Juggs [machine] or a tennis ball machine isn’t going to be once we report.”
Austin has never had 1,000 yards from scrimmage at the NFL level, and his career high as a receiver came in 2016, with 509 yards. Former coach Jeff Fisher’s staff used Austin in ways similar to his deployment at West Virginia, where it was simple enough to put him in space against defenders who couldn’t catch him. At the next level, they can — and so it will take more than bubble screens and jet sweeps to get the kind of production to justify not only the top-10 selection but the four-year, $42 million contract that the Rams gave Austin last year.
With Greg Robinson being dumped by the Rams onto the tackle-needy Lions, it’s hard not to wonder what it would take to get Austin away from L.A. — and whether any teams out there think they can get more out of him than the Rams have.