Tavon Austin: Rookie season 'pretty big adjustment'


The St. Louis Rams raised eyebrows last month when not one of their 11 draft picks was used on a wide receiver.

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Coming off a campaign that saw the team finish 29th in receiving yards and 26th in yards per catch, coach Jeff Fisher remains sold on the crop of young talent already assembled.

"I don't see it as a gamble at all," Fisher said, per Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

To be fair, it's not as if the Rams have ignored the position.

Along with using the No. 8 overall pick last year on Tavon Austin, St. Louis has attacked the draft of late to surround Sam Bradford with weapons in the form of second-round pick Brian Quick (2012), third-rounders Stedman Bailey (2013) and Austin Pettis (2011), and fourth-round draftee Chris Givens (2012). The Rams also dropped a hill of dough on pass-catching tight end Jared Cook in free agency last spring.

"We don't necessarily see that as a need position," said Fisher, while pointing to Austin's development toward the end of his rookie campaign.

After averaging five or fewer yards-per-reception in four of his first eight starts, Austin ripped off 18 yards per catch over his final four games of the year.

"It's all about getting comfortable," Austin said. "It was a pretty big adjustment for me at first. The playbook was different. The speed of the game was different. I eventually caught on and the game settled down."

As noted on a recent podcast, while the Rams deserve credit for gathering their share of young pass catchers, the team remains guilty of failing to set those players free.

Brian Schottenheimer's offense produced a mere 41 receptions of 20-plus yards last season after squeezing out just 43 with a healthy Bradford in 2012. Chip Kelly's Eagles, meanwhile, chalked up 80 of those plays in 2013 alone.

Using Austin more creatively would help. It's something we'll monitor closely this summer in St. Louis.

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