(FootballStL) -- A rookie wide receiver could become the face of the Rams return game this season.
Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick, is expected to provide speed and excitement to a unit that’s in need of a spark. Austin has impressed with his blinding speed and quickness.
The Rams averaged only 21 yards per punt return last season, which ranked 26th in the 32- team NFL. No Rams player returned a punt past 50 yards in 2012. No Rams player returned a punt for a touchdown.
The Rams kickoff return game had an even tougher year. The Rams averaged just 6.6 yards per return last season, which was the second worst in the league.
No kickoffs were returned for a touchdown, but help could be on the way with the drafting of Austin.
“Everything we saw on tape in college: great ball skills, dynamite with his feet, and a little guy, hard to tackle”, said Rams special teams coach John Fassel. “So far, so good”.
Austin’s speed and versatility could change last year’s special teams numbers almost overnight.
Not only did Austin show well during special teams drills during organized team activities, but the rookie has been catching punts one-handed during drills while showing off his quickness.
Said Fassel, “There no way you can coach it. You look at it from, if we had to punt to him, he’s on another team, what is your concern? There’s a lot. He’s got a great dimension. He’s got breakaway speed, but he’s got the ability that little guys have which is incredible quickness and elusiveness”
The Rams will also be very careful with Austin, and will monitor the pounding that he takes on his 5 foot 8 inch, 170 pound frame. “We still have a ways to go, but that definitely is a factor,” said Fassel. “ What’s his load on offense? And then is that too much to do both punts and kickoffs? So, the reps are less than they used to be as far as a returner. But, I think its to be determined.”