The St. Louis Rams had big expectations for Tavon Austin last season, his first year in the NFL. After all, they traded up to the eighth spot in the first round to get him, but he struggled to make an impact during his rookie season. Austin chalked up his year one struggles to not knowing the playbook in an interview with the Associated Press.
"I didn't really know what was going on," Austin said. "Everything looked like Spanish and sounded like Spanish to me."
Two problems here.
First, the AP writer doesn't put any context about the timeframe into that quote. Is Austin talking about Week 1? OTAs? All year? We assume Austin means the entire season. That detail isn't included, and it's kind of an important one.
Second, Austin's assertion flies in the face of everything the Rams said about his status heading into the 2013 season. Here's Jeff Fisher on Austin in a press conference from Sep. 4, 2013:
(On how WR Tavon Austin's preseason was and state of readiness for the season)
"He's ready to go. He's prepared to do whatever we ask him to do for us this week."
(On if Austin has a good grasp of the playbook)
"Yes. He's not had any issues whatsoever with our offense since his arrival."
And of course we all remember when the coaches teased at secret plans for Austin prior to the start of the season.
But not to worry. Austin says he's got Brian Schottenheimer's offense all figured out for year two (because what else can he really say?) and he feels like the game will slow down for him.
Austin came to the league with questions about his ability to pick up a pro style offense. He scored a seven on the Wonderlic test as a rookie (50 is the highest possible score). It doesn't help that Schottenheimer's playbook is considered by many to be needlessly complex.
Then again, a coach can only do so much to get a player ready. The Rams invested a top-10 pick in Austin. If he can't get himself ready to play the game, it's a problem.
There's more to Austin's struggles than just the playbook. Last month, Football Outsiders ran an in-depth look at the causes for Austin's struggles last season, coming up with a few answers. For starters, Austin's easily thrown off his routes with a bump or even a graze from a defender. A defense can put him in man coverage and take him out of the play entirely. Second, his hands were terrible. He struggled to catch much of anything, and when you factor in a quarterback who also has to be in the perfect situation to make an accurate throw, it doesn't make a very successful combination. You owe it to yourselves to read the full article at FO.
Right now, Austin looks like he's bound for a specialist role in the offense, a gadget player for endarounds, sweeps, etc.