Tavon Austin, number eight overall pick just a season ago. So much hype surrounding that name, but what’s hype without production? Well, nothing really. Just ask Tim Tebow.
So what could be the problem? Is Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer not creative enough to get him the ball in space? Is he just overrate? Is he so explosive that he draws so much attention from the defense and they are shutting him down? If you’re seeing anything from the average Rams fan then these could all be true. Let’s take a look at what could be the issue that is causing Tavon Austin’s impact to be so minimal.
Brian Schottenheimer clearly isn’t cut out for this position. Does that mean his lack of great play calling would impact a players career this dramatically? Well with a player like Tavon Austin, he needs space to be most productive. Austin has been seen mainly lined up in the backfield where the play call is a run directly up the middle of the field. Not exactly the play call you’d like to see for a player with Tavon Austin’s talents. So why not run a sweep? That’s what the defense would think too right? So throw them off of their game and send him through the last place you’d expect to see him. That was before the Rams kept calling this play. Maybe at this point in the season a sweep would work perfectly. I know I’m not the only person who wants to see a flea-flicker from Tavon. Production or not, this is a player you have to pay attention to. We’ve seen that the defense will just about always be looking for a wide receiver screen to Tavon as he has yet to be able to catch one and gain any meaningful amount of yards. Play calling is a definite contributor to the lack of production from Tavon Austin, but what is the right play call? Flea-flicker? End-around pass? Screen from the backfield? We will only know when Schottenheimer decides to call these plays and they actually work. Until then, we can only imagine what it looks like to have Austin running down the field on his way to the end zone. Something we haven’t seen in almost a full year.
It’s now being argued that Tavon Austin may actually not be that good. That is a legitimate argument since we have no real numbers to back up that Tavon Austin is a viable reliable play-maker. It’s impossible to ignore games that Austin has exploded in such as a game against the Indianapolis Colts last season. Tavon was just being Tavon in that game and was able to carry that momentum into the next game when the Rams hosted the Chicago Bears. That was all very exciting and is fun to still think about, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. Austin ranks as the 80th best wide receiver according to PFF. Austin has 15 catches on the season for 134 yards and has not found the end zone yet. On the ground, Austin has 17 carries (Yes he has more carries than receptions) for 72 yards.
Maybe Tavon Austin is supposed to be a return specialist. Well Austin has 16 punt return attempts this year for a total of 109 yards. His longest punt return being a solid 38 yard gain. Austin has only had two chances at kick returns so far this year yielding just 19 yards. His longest kick return going for just 11 yards. Benny Cunningham has cornered the kick return duties with numbers that easily trump Austins.
For most fans, Tavon Austin is still a fan favorite. Without production in the second half of the 2014 season, the love could start fading. Luckily Austin is still only in the second season of his rookie contract. Tavon Austin isn’t breaking the bank like some of the other players in St. Louis who are having a hard time being productive. With it seeming more and more likely that Brian Schottenheimer could be out of St. Louis next season, maybe we should wait to see what a different coordinator could do with Tavon.
Follow Joe Branham on Twitter (@jtbranham)