Jeff Fisher: Tavon Austin poised for 'breakout year'


After two years as an afterthought in the Rams' offense, former No. 8 overall pick Tavon Austin is being prepped for a featured role in 2015.

"There's no doubt in my mind that his production level should increase," coach Jeff Fisher said this week, via's Don Banks.

The party line is that Nick Foles' height (6-foot-5) will allow him to quickly find Austin in crowded spaces after a litany of backup quarterbacks failed to get him the ball in previous seasons.

"This has nothing to do with Tavon. It's not a reflection on what he's done," Fisher added. "Tavon has done everything he possibly can. He's in great shape, and he's highly talented and a passionate teammate. This has been more about the circumstances of our situation. This potentially could be a breakout year for him. Because he's got the potential to win outside and inside."

That explanation ignores the fact that Austin initially struggled to master the Rams' playbook, has played just 50 percent of the snaps, hasn't flashed the power to break arm tackles and was ill-suited for Brian Schottenheimer's paint-by-numbers offense.

The Rams believe they have solutions to all of those issues.

New offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti noted in June that Austin has been better in the classroom, resulting in improved route running. Austin has also added muscle in an effort to power through tackles after the catch.

There's optimism in St. Louis, per Banks, that Cignetti has a better idea of how to get the ball to Austin in space, allowing the running back/receiver hybrid to unleash his speed and elusiveness.

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General manager Les Snead attributes Austin's disappointing production thus far to an offense that was necessarily scaled back to compensate for the loss of Sam Bradford.

"When you're playing your backup quarterback, you get into the mode of being less willing to be really creative and you're just trying to figure out, 'How are we going to win the game?'" Snead explained. "So all those storms, all the adversity probably limited his production. Is that the whole story? No. I mean, he's got to do his part."

For all of the preseason hope, the Rams' rebuilt offensive line is untested and Foles' subpar ball placement inside the numbers cost him his job in Philadelphia.

If Austin is going to make good on Fisher's prediction of a breakout year, he has to first convince Cignetti to showcase the alleged difference-making talent that inspired the Rams to surrender four draft picks for his rights.

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