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The All-22: Where have you gone, Tavon Austin?

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by -X-, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. -X- Not into the whole brevity thing.

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    BY CHRIS BURKE
    <a class="postlink" href="http://nfl.si.com/2013/09/30/tavon-austin-st-louis-rams/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://nfl.si.com/2013/09/30/tavon-aust ... ouis-rams/</a>

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    The St. Louis Rams traded up eight spots in April’s draft to nab Tavon Austin, and coach Jeff Fisher immediately began promoting the impact Austin could have on his team’s offense.

    “We felt like we needed a player to create a mismatch and we feel that he helps to create that for our entire offense now,” Fisher said.

    So what’s gone wrong? Austin had a rather ho-hum preseason (eight catches for 66 yards) that left Fisher explaining that the Rams “haven’t shown” their plans for Austin yet. A quarter of the way into the season, we’re all still waiting.

    Austin has been almost a non-factor in the Rams offense. His yards-per-catch average of 6.2 is worst among St. Louis receivers and better than only seldom-used tight ends Cory Harkey and Mike McNeill overall. Austin has 20 grabs in four games, but he has totaled only 124 yards (6.2 yards per catch); his YAC (yards after contact) average is even worse at 3.1, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The explanation comes from a combination of factors, all of which coincidentally are contributing to St. Louis’ offensive struggles as a whole: no run game, poor line play and vanilla play calling.

    Austin averaged 11.2 yards per touch during his exciting West Virginia career. To begin challenging those numbers again, a lot needs to change for both Austin and the Rams.

    One of the knocks on Austin as a first-round prospect was that he is not a Calvin Johnson- or Larry Fitzgerald-type receiver — someone who can get open against anyone or make tough catches. Instead, Austin relies on schemes and play calls to free him up, thus allowing him to turn loose his athleticism in the open field.

    A lot of St. Louis’ looks to him this year have flown in the face of that plan. Here’s one such example, from the Rams’ Week 3 loss in Dallas. Austin (circled in yellow) lined up in the slot with a receiver to his right. He then ran a route to the flat, where Sam Bradford fired him the ball, as the receiver next to him curled into the middle.

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    The Rams get a check mark here for getting the ball out quickly and into Austin’s hands — we’ll circle back on this idea of essentially using quick passes as long handoffs, to offset the shaky run game.

    That whole “Get him in the open field” idea, though? No dice.

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    By the time Austin got the ball on that play, he basically found himself boxed in on the sideline by two defenders and the boundary. Dallas did not bite on that decoy curl route and the receiver did not block once Austin had the ball, leaving the rookie in a one-on-two situation with nowhere to turn.

    Austin ran into a similar problem on a play later in the game. Again lined up in the slot, he ran a quick route to the middle of Dallas’ zone defense.

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    Bradford hit him, but again … where is Austin supposed to go here?

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    He managed to avoid the first hit, turn outside and pick up a couple of yards. But if the idea is to give Austin an opportunity to make defenders miss or crank up his 4.34 speed, getting him the ball surrounded by the opposition in a confined area will not work.

    But the other problem St. Louis has run into, with regard to Austin’s usage, is that when it tries to be a little more creative, Austin still gets minimal help. This next shot is from a play last Thursday against San Francisco. The Rams motioned Austin out of the backfield to Bradford’s left, then set up a screen pass to him.

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    Unfortunately for the Rams, there were a couple of problems here:

    1. The 49ers were plenty aware of Austin’s presence and essentially anticipated the pass to him as he motioned.

    2. The blocking was nowhere to be found. TE Jared Cook, a subpar blocker as it is, was the lead wall on this play, with left tackle Jake Long being asked to get out and block Ahmad Brooks.

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    Brooks beat Long to the edge, Cook missed his block and Austin wound up with three defenders in his face before he could get beyond the line of scrimmage.

    The blocking conundrum was even more apparent on another attempt to give Austin some room later in the game. Again, Austin started in the backfield, then slid to Bradford’s let before the snap — this time, he headed outside the slot man.

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    The play worked, at least at the onset. The Rams offensive line let San Francisco’s four-man front through, as is often the plan on a screen. Two offensive lineman then released beyond the line of scrimmage in Austin’s direction, where Cook already was lined up.

    And, on the other side of the field, the Rams faked a second screen, drawing multiple San Francisco defenders. Austin got the ball with two 49ers and three Rams in front of him. This should have been the home-run play St. Louis has been waiting for from Austin.

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    Except, one more time, the Rams botched their blocks. Those two defenders managed to circumnavigate the three blockers, hemming in Austin; a lineman also dropped back to seal off any room Austin may have had diving back inside.

    Plain and simple, this was an execution problem.

    Which brings us to this mystery as it pertains to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: Is he being too unimaginative when it comes to his rookie talent, or are the pieces he has incapable of winning on plays designed for Austin?

    The answer probably lies somewhere in-between the two possibilities. Schottenheimer has a history of being rather boring in his play calls, and he has given Austin only minimal opportunities to really show what he can do. Then, when Schottenheimer does open the playbook, breakdowns in blocking are leaving Austin without anywhere to go.

    Austin’s slow start is a problem St. Louis has to fix if it wants its offense to really take off in 2013. The Rams drafted Austin because they believed he could elevate them to another level. So far, they’re headed in the wrong direction.
     
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  2. jrry32 Well-Known Member

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    I was going to explain in an upcoming thread. Stop lining Jared Cook up on the same side of the field as Austin. Line Austin up with Pettis because Pettis actually blocks. Cook kills any chance these screens have at working. He's basically an automatic door out there...as soon as defender gets close, he opens up and lets him walk right by.
     
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  3. TexasRam Member

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    Excellent Breakdown. Shows clearly that either Schott can figure out how to get Tavon the ball in one on one, or he simply cant coach up the players to execute it.

    I do take exception to this statement above though:

    The explanation comes from a combination of factors, all of which coincidentally are contributing to St. Louis’ offensive struggles as a whole: no run game

    The Saints had 35 points on MNF tonight while averaging 1.8 YPC.

    Also, go ask Aaron Rodgers how important a run game is.

    The Fact is we are built to Pass and need to pass first. But Schott is failing us. He simply cannot draw it up or coach it to execution.
     
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  4. bluecoconuts Well-Known Member

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    Pretty much. You can make up for a lack of run game with great playcalling to create mismatches, but Schotty isn't doing that for us.
     
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  5. MTRamsFan Montana is God's Country

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    Add to this Fisher is going to force the "OC" to run first, run second and then pass based upon the failed run game. BTW, until the "OC" changes the way he calls a game and utilizes the weapons on offense I refuse to call him by name, either real or made up. He will be called "OC"... and I'm unsure that he should be even called that.
     
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  6. Angry Ram aka Captain RAmerica aka the OG Rammer

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    I am so tired of the YPC stat. It's almost as bad as QBR but that's a different topic.

    While New Orleans was bleeding the clock w/...the running game.

    I'll ask Aaron Rodgers and he'll show me Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin?

    Every team that won yesterday had running games that had to be accounted for. Even Pittsburgh who lost played probably their best game so far b/c of a decent run game.

    It's as important as ever.
     
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  7. smram Member

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    Rammer I think it's valid to a point. Obviously your coach and blockers make or break the stat.
    Do you really think that E Smith is the best back of all time. Sometimes stats can be skewed. I certainly don't think smith is top 10 of all time. Product of his system. He couldn't even outrun DE's on the field. It's all in what position you are put in. Obviously ability has a significant say but crap happens. You get stuck with a poor coach or line but you could be amazing and never realize your full potential. Or, like Emmitt smith, be falsely considered the best of all time. bullcrap
     
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  8. HometownBoy STL sports aficionado

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    This, that play where he just basically flailed his arms at a 9ers player as they walked right past him is all that needs to be said about Cook's blocking. Every team knows if you put even the lightest pressure on him he folds like a wet napkin.

    Gotta put people who can actually help Austin get into space on the field or it doesn't matter how many plays you use.

    There's only as much space as you create.
     
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  9. WvuIN02 Member

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    The Rams dont have the personnel to block for those types of plays it seems. Watching the Saints with Sproles, 3rd and 20 and he gets 21 yards. Graham as a TE blows up his guy, 3 guys pull from the OL and pancake people. You see Rams OL too slow and then whiff on blocks along with Cook who needs to learn how to be a complete TE.

    Austin can beat guys 1 on 1 a lot, but he isnt a miracle worker who is going to win vs 2 or more defenders constantly boxing him in.
     
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  10. GreeneCounty Well-Known Member

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    Austin size worries me. He is not gonna make many plays against top cb's at his size.
     
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  11. A55VA6 Shutdown Corner

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    This is why he needs to get more screens, more handoffs, and have the defense force the other team to punt more.

    Tavon Austin with the ball in his hands... it can be a TD waiting. I don't like using him like a traditional WR.
     
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  12. RaminExile Well-Known Member

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    Hopefully Lance Kendricks can get up to speed now hes over his injury that ruined his pre-season. If we can go to a 2 TE set and have Lance get out in front of Tavon he might do a better job blocking than Cook.

    Brian Quick should be able to block as well - look at the size of the guy! Get him on the field more!
     
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  13. TexasRam Member

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    Let me repeat.... The Saints had 35 points last night with ZERO run game. In less than 3 quarters of play.

    So Exhibit one shows a run game is Irrelevant if you have a great passing game. 35 points.
    Exhibit two is Green Bay- Their Offensive output every year is Excellent without a Run Game. Their Defense is pee pee poor and the reason for any losses. They won a Super Bowl without a run game.

    And show me a great passing team and I will show you a run game that is opened up from that pass.

    In Fact the Same teams that find themselves in the playoffs are the teams that can throw the ball. Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, Ryan.

    If you want to be a run first team and be competitive you better have a top 5 defense or you will never keep up with the top passing QB's in the NFL.
     
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  14. HometownBoy STL sports aficionado

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    Well there's a stark difference in our inability to run and theirs.

    Ours is because they don't respect any aspect of our offense and just sit there waiting for us to act.


    Seattle has Marshawn Lynch, they can throw all over people because people are trying to make sure Lynch doesn't run all over them.
     
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  15. moklerman Warner-phile

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    Last year's Rams showed that can be misleading. When you intentionally keep the score low, it "seems" your defense is pretty good when looking at the stats. But when you wind up facing a team that doesn't play down to the competition, they roll right over you.

    I won't be surprised if the Rams win this week but it'll be a Fisher(Spagnuolo) type of game. They'll squat on any type of lead they might get and try to hold on or squeak it out at the end. 13-10, 17-14, 20-16...whatever. You mentioned the Saints last night. Did you notice their approach? No letting off the throttle. They didn't start that run, run, 3rd & long, punt formula that lets the other team back into the game.

    Until Fisher shows me that he's willing to change...you know, because coaches just love dong that, I'm relegated to thinking we have a more experienced, more successful version of Spagnuolo. I hate that approach and hate that mentality. Playing not to lose.
     
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  16. fearsomefour Well-Known Member

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    Great breakdown.
    The first play works well vs. man coverage but vs. a zone unless the guys bite on the cross Austin is dead in the water. If the Rams had a WR that attracted attention that play might work vs. a zone, but, Austin is still the focus at this point.
    The play with Brooks beating Long to the edge. Brooks would beat every LT in the NFL to the edge as he was lined up outside the T to begin with....and shocker, the blocks dont get made.
    The last play should have been a big play. I agree with what Jrry32 said, we have to stop lining up Cook with Austin. Looks great on paper but Cool is not a complete player. We are finding out why he had limited success in Tennessee. A TE with his athletic ability that cant block is like a sports car with no breaks and bald tires....nice to imagine what it could do.
    The sad thing with Cook is it is a "will vs. skill" issue with him. With his size and speed there is zero reason why he couldnt become a complete TE that could utilized many different ways. He may still develop into that. The thing that is frustrating is he doesnt seem to to try. He doesnt want contact or so it seems.
    The Rams are paying huge money to a guy that isent willing to block. Seems like a suckers bet to me. Way early with Cook I know. But, he would be in pads blocking in practice everyday until he started hitting some blocks.
     
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  17. bluecoconuts Well-Known Member

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    We lack the playcall and creativity on offense to pull that off. Unless Schotty does a complete 180 anyway.
     
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  18. RamzFanz Well-Known Member Pit Boss

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    The lack of blocking and intelligent play design is killing his potential.

    I don't see an answer. Blocking can be taught but I don't believe for a second Schotty is going to become a play design genius.

    Every week I watch players with less talent than TA break huge plays just because of a single block or a play design that gets them open and it makes me sick.
     
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  19. LosAngelesRams Janoris Ogletree

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    This.
     
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  20. CGI_Ram Hamburger Connoisseur

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    This x2.

    And if balance is important to you... Its like which came first? The chicken or the egg?

    I think you can pass first to set up the run... or run first to set up the pass. It works both ways.

    This is what bothers me about Fisher's approach/comments with the running game. It comes off "locked into" old school mentality.
     
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