When the St. Louis Rams traded up to select wide receiver Tavon Austin at No. 8 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, they had visions of Percy Harvin dancing in their heads. What they have seen through six games more closely resembles Dexter McCluster.
"It's just the way the game went," coach Jeff Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We didn't have a whole lot of plays, didn't have a lot of opportunities on offense."
Fisher's explanation checks out, as the Rams ran Austin's "11" personnel package on just seven snaps in Week 6. The approach has changed on offense the past two weeks, with Sam Bradford passing the ball just 41 percent of the time versus 71 percent in the first four games.
That said, it's abundantly clear that the coaching staff's preseason plans to showcase Austin's explosiveness and versatility have long since been ditched.
One of the least effective receivers in the NFL thus far, Austin has dropped seven passes and forced just two missed tackles while averaging a scant 6.03 yards on 28 offensive touches.
As McCluster already has discovered over the past four years, the elite tackling skills and speed of NFL linebackers make it difficult for an undersized player such as Austin to operate in traffic.
As we have discussed several times on the Around The League Podcast, Austin's size and power limitations have left the onus on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to scheme ways to get the ball in Austin's hands in space.
Whether or not Austin has reached a level in his development that will allow him to be showcased, Schottenheimer's plans for the uniquely talented player remain as hazy as the Rams' offensive identity.
Would a more advanced offensive coaching staff find a way to unlock Austin's game-breaking potential?
It's hard to say with cetainty, but the evidence against this regime's ability to develop skill-position talent is piling up with 2012 second-round draft picks Isaiah Pead and Brian Quick also relegated to minor roles.