The Los Angeles Rams are conducting a very expensive experiment involving Tavon Austin.
Tavon Austin has played 30 total snaps (16 offensive, 14 special teams) through two games this season for the Rams. He’s due a base salary of $3.5 million in 2017. So he’s making roughly $14,500 per snap.
The team hired offensive minded Sean McVay as head coach after they (finally) fired Jeff Fisher. One reason Fisher was fired was his lack of inventiveness on offense. The revolving door of offensive coordinators didn’t help either.
Prior to last season, the Rams signed Austin to a 4-year, $42 million contract extension.
The knee-jerk reaction here would be to say that after bringing in McVay, they still haven’t figured out how to use Austin. And that may be true, but I see two reasons why Austin has barely broken a sweat through two weeks.
As most of you reading this are Mountaineer fans, we tend to view WVUPros in a vacuum. That is, if they are cut, demoted, or slighted in any way, it’s not their fault, it’s the teams’ fault. Sometimes that is true.
In this case, the jury is still out. The figurative jury could keep deliberating for several more weeks.
WVU fans likely see McVay’s hiring as a good thing for Austin. In June, McVay said Austin would have a “big role” in the offense.
The snap count through two weeks suggest the opposite.
While getting Austin better involved in the offense was one reason for McVay’s hiring, the biggest reason was for the young coach to bring along 2016 #1 pick Jared Goff. McVay was formerly key in Kirk Cousins development in Washington. Lucas. The Rams hope McVay can replicate that with Goff.
If he can, then a by-product of Goff’s success could be an Austin breakout, except…
Austin had wrist surgery during the offseason and wasn’t part of the installation of the new offense. He then suffered a hamstring injury during camp and did not play in the preseason. The team also traded for Sammy Watkins last month.
This leads to three different possibilities for Austin’s lack of playing time: 1) The lack of reps has affected Austin’s playing time. 2) Austin is being phased out of the offense. 3) McVay hasn’t figured out how to use Austin yet.
Some point emphatically at the second possibility above, especially with the addition of Watkins. I believe it’s a mixture of numbers 1 and 3.
It’s difficult to see what works and what doesn’t against what is a good defense for L.A. in practice if Austin can’t participate. At this point in the season, much of practice time is spent game-planning for the next week.
Before the Rams opened the season against Indianapolis, McVay said of Austin, “The anticipation is he’s going to be a part of that game plan. How, exactly, we’ll utilize him is going to be some things for us to figure out. But he’s going to be part of that for sure.”
The team doesn’t have their bye until Week 8. That could be a time to develop more of a game plan for Austin.
Hopefully the Rams will figure out Austin’s role sooner. $14,500 per play is a steep price to play to develop a plan on the fly.