Tavon Austin: Grading Rookie WR's Debut Against Arizona Cardinals

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerContributor IIISeptember 8, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 8: Tavon Austin #11 of the St. Louis Rams looks to avoid a tackle after making a catch against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on September 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Cardinals 27-24.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

St. Louis Rams rookie receiver Tavon Austin is the most electric offensive player from the 2013 draft class, so naturally, fans across the nation are curious to see what he did in his NFL debut. 

Austin was hardly the primary difference-maker for the Rams in their 27-24 home victory over the Arizona Cardinals, but he certainly made his presence known on the field. 

Austin was second on the team in receptions with six and picked up 41 yards. He did carry the ball one time, but it went for no gain. 

Here's a look at Austin's numbers from the game in comparison with the other St. Louis receivers. 

The general perception is that Austin was held back in the preseason. On NFL.com, coach Jeff Fisher confirmed that only a portion of Austin's playbook was revealed during exhibition games, hinting that the Rams had bigger regular-season plans for the receiver.

If you were expecting a magical unveiling of Austin, you may be disappointed, as the receiver was hardly unleashed against Arizona. His longest play was for 14 yards. 

However, while Austin was somewhat of a letdown for your fantasy team, he did show fans in St. Louis that he's more than capable of being a security blanket for quarterback Sam Bradford. He's up to the task of replacing Danny Amendola in the slot. 

This article will cover the different aspects of Austin's game and grade him based on his production and execution on the field. 


Receiving: B

For the majority of the game, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had Austin run short, safe routes. He only picked up a few yards at a time. 

During St. Louis' final drive of the first half, Austin had two nine-yard receptions, including a catch that brought the Rams to Arizona's 15-yard line, which set up a touchdown pass from Bradford to Jared Cook for St. Louis' first touchdown of the game. 

In the Rams' first drive of the fourth quarter, with the team already in Arizona territory, Austin made a 14-yard grab—his longest of the game—and took the offense to Arizona's 18-yard line for a first down. The drive ended with another Cook touchdown. 

It wasn't just the receptions that helped the team, either. Austin's speed and quickness forced Arizona defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to commit a pass interference, which set up St. Louis' first field goal of the game. 

Austin didn't score himself and didn't break free for any devastating plays, but he helped the Rams move the ball and allowed them to move into scoring position on multiple occasions. 

Austin primarily struggled with yardage. He averaged just 6.8 yards per catch, which lowers his grade. 

If Austin only sealed the deal by adding a touchdown or a big gain to his stat sheet, he'd have a higher grade in this department, but there's always next week. 


Special Teams: C

Austin was not drafted merely as a receiver, but he's a top-notch punt returner as well. 

Unfortunately for Austin, he didn't shine in this department, but he certainly didn't hurt the team either. 

Austin only had one opportunity to return a punt, but he was brought down for a one-yard gain, as seen in this video:

Had Austin avoided the lone tackler that brought him down, the return would have gone for at least 10 yards, but the Arizona defender wrapped up his ankles and limited his ability to escape. 

Austin saved his grade, however, by making a key block as a punt returner. 

With less that two minutes in the final quarter and the score tied at 24, Arizona was forced to punt the ball. An Arizona defender had a shot at downing the ball inside the St. Louis 5-yard line, but a block by Austin allowed the ball to safely bounce in the end zone for a touchback. 

The Rams took over and marched downfield to kick the game-winning field goal. Had Austin not made that block, the Rams would have started the drive on the 5-yard line rather than the 20, making the drive much more difficult. 


Overall: B

Austin did not make any highlight reels in his NFL debut. He didn't have any monster plays or touchdowns, but he did enough to help the Rams win. 

Austin gets a "B" for playing a fundamentally sound game and making plays that helped the Rams win. 

It wasn't the dynamite performance fans were hoping for, and apparently we'll have to wait a little longer for his magical unveiling, but it was a promising start to a promising career. 

Before the season is over, Austin will make the highlight reels. 


Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams game day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer's profile or by following him on Twitter


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