Entering his third season, Austin says he has made it a point to block out what others have to say but he hasn't been able to completely avoid the criticism. It's part of why Austin views this season as critically important to his NFL future.
"I think it’s real big to be honest just because of how the media say I’m a bust and all of that stuff," Austin said. "I really don’t pay too much attention to it but I know one thing about it is when I’m focused, I’m focused. It’s going to be a different story this year and we’ll see what happens when we get to the end of the year."
From Jim Thomas at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
In the continuing efforts to get Tavon Austin more involved in the offense, Cignetti liked what he saw from the wide receiver this spring.
"Tavon Austin’s had a great offseason," Cignetti said. "It starts in the classroom. He’s learning. He’s paying attention. He’s bringing it to the practice field.
"You just see it from his route running. What a difference. His effort, his attention to details. Every day out there, the guy’s made plays."
"Basically, it depends on opportunity," Austin says. "Last year, I didn't have too many opportunities out there. Different offensive coordinator, different quarterback. I'm just thankful -- things are working out in my favor right now and hopefully, everything just keeps going my way."
With new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti's system, Austin feels his role is changing.
"He definitely comes and talks to me a lot, asking me what I see out there, what I like," Austin says. "He tries to get me a little more involved in our offense. So I'm definitely happy with that."
Going into year three, the demands on Austin are higher than ever.
As the 8th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, a selection the Rams had to trade up and lose draft capital to make, Austin commanded an immediate level of expectation. As the first wide receiver taken in that draft, he'll forever be compared to the other wideouts in the class. Throw in the immediate productivity of the 2014 NFL Draft wide receiver class, and Tavon Austin's lack of productivity weighs heavier than at any point in his NFL career.
After a sophomore season which saw Austin's targets drop by 25, receptions drop by 9, receiving yards drop by 176 and receiving touchdowns plummet to 0, Rams fans would be entirely justified in demanding more. For an offense that hasn't ranked in the top half of the league for offensive points or yards since 2006, excuses run thin.
And for Tavon Austin, Jeff Fisher and the 2015 St. Louis Rams, a "different story" needs to be more than a talking point.