Optimism is high regarding the offense of the St. Louis Rams for the upcoming season. A number of old faces are no longer in town while a slew of new names will be on the backs of jerseys to replace them in 2013. There are two names in particular that seem primed to have a significant impact on the offense in the season ahead.
Let’s first flashback to one offseason ago when Jared Cook was still with the Tennessee Titans. Cook and his agent contended that under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) the Titans would need to pay the tight end wide receiver money when they slapped the franchise tag on him because that is where the majority of his snaps were played. Turns out the Titans held Cook with measly tight end money for the 2012 season and didn’t even think about pulling the same stunt this past offseason as Cook bolted for a new home in St. Louis.
And now we stand at the present with the 2013 NFL regular season about to get underway and the Rams considering many options with their versatile pass catcher. If the most recent preseason game was any indication, Cook is going to play much more than the typical tight end role in the Rams’ offense. He caught the game’s opening three-yard touchdown and finished the contest with four catches for 50 yards. And this was all just in one half of action.
So as much buzz as Tavon Austin has generated as the potential do-it-all man in the St. Louis offense, it seems like Cook could be the guy primed for the bigger impact in his first year with the club. Head coach Jeff Fisher has said that Austin will be used in a multitude of ways this season, but Cook could offer just as much versatility to the offense and his 6-foot-5 248-pound frame makes it easier for him to get open than the diminutive Austin who could get lost at just 5-foot-8 174-pounds.
But perhaps that’s the plan.
Austin showed just what he is capable of in the most recent preseason contest as well returning a punt 81 yards and coming up just a few yards short of his first career touchdown in the process. While he hasn’t been all that involved offensively to date, the Rams could be strategically hiding Austin for the time being in that aspect to catch teams by surprise when the regular season arrives. The lightning bug is also capable of taking reverses or motioning into the backfield and taking handoffs. He may want to avoid running up the middle at the professional level, but Austin had plenty of success as a ball carrier during his time at West Virginia.
What could make the mini package have the larger impact is the fact that Austin can impact the game in so many different ways. Obviously he will be a slasher as a receiver capable of making dynamic plays from the slot or on the outside, but his aforementioned running ability combined with that special teams value puts the ball in his hands quite a bit. 10 to 12 touches per game for Austin could result in three or four touchdowns if the opposing defense isn’t careful. That is what could separate his value from Cook’s at both tight end and the split out receiver spots.
So who will have the bigger impact? I suppose it’s a win-win for the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford especially as he will be hounding offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to dial up No. 11 or No. 89 quite frequently in the upcoming season. Expect big things as the Rams attempt to rekindle some of that ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ energy from the turn of the century.