Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; St. Louis Rams punt returner Tavon Austin (11) runs past Carolina Panthers linebacker Jordan Senn (57) on a punt return during the game at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers win 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Tavon Austin coming out in the 2013 NFL Draft was one of my top offensive players and I thought he was an early favorite to win rookie of the year.
I’m not backing down on my assessment of Austin as a prospect, but the speed at which he plays the game has not been the speed at which he has adjusted to being an NFL wide receiver.
After a few dominant seasons at West Virginia with Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey, Austin has struggled to adjust to the speed of the NFL, and has done virtually nothing for the Rams this season. He recently admitted that the transition was much harder than probably what he had expected.
“This isn’t supposed to be easy,” he said. “Maybe it was a little harder than I thought at first. But all I can do is keep working.”
Austin has an incredible ability to make plays, but the Rams are still waiting for that playmaking ability to take form in St. Louis. The Rams traded up in the 2013 NFL Draft to select Austin, so they were obviously expecting him to be a key contributor as a rookie, but that just has not yet happened.
Not only is Austin struggling, but Stedman Bailey hasn’t seen much action for the Rams this year either, a transition that both Bailey and Austin are absolutely foreign to. Together, they were arguably the most prolific wide receiver duo in the nation over the last couple of years, but they’ve had to adjust to learning the ropes in the NFL the hard way.
“This is just life in the NFL,” Bailey said. “We both come from a place where we’d see 15 balls a game. Everything came through us. That’s not going to happen here. It’s just going to take some adjusting.”
The sooner these two can adjust to the speed of the NFL, the better for the Rams, but St. Louis will have to be patient. It seems like they’ve drafted more receivers than Matt Millen over the last couple of years, and the fact that these guys haven’t made a quick transition has not only hurt the Rams but it’s hurt quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been playing arguably the best ball of his career and finally appeared to be starting to get things together before going down with a serious knee injury.
Perhaps 2014 will be a make or break year for Bradford, but hopefully by that point, his young playmakers on offense will have figured things out and made the necessary adjustments to be great in a league that so many people believed they could be.