Sometimes trying to make sense of a situation is a futile exercise that really gets you nothing but frustration in return. Such is the case with attempting to understand just why Tavon Austin has struggled so mightily in his rookie NFL season.
What you can be sure of is the St. Louis Rams didn’t trade up into the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft to select a player that they thought would average a measly 6.7 yards per catch. Austin was expected to be an electric play-maker from day one with an ability to make guys miss and really take over games. That hasn’t been the case thus far, and the diminutive receiver explained to PFT why things haven’t exactly been a walk in the park saying:
“This isn’t supposed to be easy. Maybe it was a little harder than I thought at first. But all I can do is keep working. It’s all about patience and I’m sure my time will come. I’m learning what it takes to be successful and I’m doing the things the coaches tell me.”
Now clearly nothing bad can be said about Austin’s work ethic or his willingness to try and adapt, but what was troubling in Week 9 was that his former West Virginia Mountaineer teammate and fellow draft class member Stedman Bailey actually got one more pass than Austin. Both guys have smallish frames – Austin 5-foot-8 176-pounds, Bailey 5-foot-10 193-pounds – which makes the Rams’ decision to get their third rounder involved more than their top 10 pick all the more puzzling.
It would seem that if a play works for Bailey that same blueprint would do wonders for the smaller, faster Austin. Austin still more than doubled Bailey in offensive snaps with 29 to Bailey’s 11, but it’s the ability to get open and catch the ball when targeted that is troubling for the higher draft pick. His seven drops are very worrisome as well and will only further deter whoever the quarterback is from throwing in his direction which will continue to retard his development.
There’s only so long a team can wait for a player drafted with such lofty expectations to live up to that potential. Obviously Austin isn’t anywhere near the end of that patience meter, but the Rams have to be miffed as to why he has been unable to make much of an impact in year one. Having Kellen Clemens under center down the stretch certainly won’t help matters, but it’s not just the quarterback causing Austin’s inability to get free and make impact plays. If the third rounder Bailey has another outing or two where he puts up better numbers than the top 10 selection in Austin it might be time to start questioning his ability to ever live up to the hype in St. Louis.