Cardinals vs. Rams, Week 1: St. Louis readies to unleash Tavon Austin

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams offense is ready for a more efficient season in 2013, with a little help from its stable of playmakers.

"What we've ran in the preseason is exactly what we're going to run in the game," Sam Bradford said. "Those are the only plays that we've got in the playbook. Tell Arizona that."

The St. Louis Rams quarterback brimmed with jocularity after Wednesday's practice. Much to the relief of everyone eager to see Bradford's offense finally break out of the league's basement, August's vanilla playbooks have been retired. The Rams offense has skipped past the introductory chapter as they get ready to host the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday to open the season.

Bradford assured the assembled members of the press that he and his teammates were ready to open things up.

"I'm ready to go," Bradford said. "I'm ready to see these young guys out there. They've put in a lot of time. They've done a great job learning the system so far. We had a great training camp. It's going to be really fun to see those guys get out there and light it up on Sunday."

Continuity has been the buzz word since the end of last season. A second year in Brian Schottenheimer's offense would give the quarterback the stability and the chance to master an offensive system he'd been denied since the Rams made him the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

"I would say for the most part, efficiency is really the next step where I need to take," Bradford said when asked where he could improve.

"Last year we really struggled on third down, but a big reason of that is because first and second down weren't very efficient."

Inefficiency stands out in the team's offensive statistics from last season, starting with an average of 18.7 points per game. Sure, it was the best mark the Rams have produced in the last three years, but there were 24 teams with a better number.

Across the board, the Rams failed to produce offensively above league average.

Yds/play Yds/rush Yds/pass 1st downs/game 3rd down
Rams 5.25 4.18 6.37 17.9 32.06%
NFL 5.41 4.26 6.66 19.8 38.16%

Bradford and the Rams have another plan for breaking out of the offensive doldrums: Speed.

"I think the biggest thing they all have in common is speed," Bradford said of his receivers and running backs. "We've got all different shapes and sizes of guys who are able to make plays now. I've got someone who, if I get the ball into their hands, there's a possibility that they could break a tackle and create an explosive play. It just opens up a lot of different options, things that we haven't had in the past."

Except for a couple bombs to Chris Givens and a handful of seam routes with Jared Cook, the Rams didn't reveal just how fast they are in their four preseason games. That was especially true for rookie Tavon Austin, the team's first-round pick this year.

"He's ready to go," Jeff Fisher said of the speedy rookie. "He's prepared to do whatever we ask him to do for us this week."

The quarterback talked up Austin's preparation as well.

"He came up to me at practice a couple times today and talked to me about small adjustments verse different coverages that they showed us," Bradford said. "And that shows a lot to me because we haven't had those conversations before. I think it's really great to see something like that happen.

"I think he's starting to understand the finer points of the offense and of the routes that he's running."

Exactly what those routes and the "finer points" are for Austin, the world is still waiting to see. The West Virginia product has been lining up at every receiver spot in practice since spring OTAs. He's done some work out of the backfield too.

But in the preseason, the Rams mostly kept Austin under wraps. He caught eight passes, but they averaged just 8.3 yards per reception. His longest was 15 yards. He had a few moments where he tried to make a series of moves, the kind of thing players with his skill set can get away with in Big 12 games, but don't fool NFL-level defenders. Like any rookie, regardless of how talented he his, there are always ups and downs.

Aside from the expected adjustments from young players, the Rams left their mid week practice session feeling good about their propensity to move the ball and score points.

"We've been pleased with its progress," Fisher said.

"We just have to carry it over to the game."

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