Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Tavon Austin's open-field juke, other notes
By Mike Sando
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Rookie receiver Tavon Austin returned a punt toward the right sideline Tuesday and broke into the clear, leaving punter Johnny Hekker as the last line of defense.
Austin, the St. Louis Rams' quick and elusive first-round draft choice, staggered Hekker with a series of moves that unfolded as quickly as the eye could track.
The sequence was comical, and Hekker, left leaning awkwardly toward the sideline as Austin raced past him to the inside, knew he was going to hear it from teammates. There wasn't much Hekker could do at this point, so he dropped to the ground and clutched his hamstring in a lighthearted attempt to invite some sympathy.
It was one of the more memorable moments as the Rams opened their final week of organized team activities before breaking until training camp.
"Come on, that is hilarious," cornerback Cortland Finnegan said later. "[Austin] is the real deal, man."
Hekker, by the way, was considered arguably the most athletic punter in college football while at Oregon State. Not that it was going to matter against the 5-foot-8, 174-pound Austin, a player the Rams expect to create mismatches from the slot and elsewhere.
Other notes from the Rams' session Tuesday at team headquarters:
- Defense impresses: The Rams' offense has certainly had its moments this offseason, but the defense more than held its own Tuesday, including during work deep inside the red zone. That was a bit of a surprise on a day when Finnegan and fellow corner Trumaine Johnson sat out.
- Stacy's hands: Rookie running back Zac Stacy caught the ball well out of the backfield, including when he had to extend for passes outside his frame. Stacy is in position to get significant carries as a rookie fifth-round draft choice, but it's too early to know how the position will shake out. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer expects a committee approach. Pass protection is one initial concern because Stacy, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson are so young.
- Pettis' offseason: Schottenheimer and the Rams' staff have liked what they've seen from receiver Austin Pettis, who showed his value in the red zone at times last season. The Rams have five young wide receivers they want to build around, and Pettis is one of them. Austin, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick and Chris Givens are the others.
- Ogletree's catch: Rookie first-round pick Alec Ogletree appeared to reflexively catch a pass that hit him in the midsection while he was playing coverage in the end zone. He took off running the other way.
- Best DB: Finnegan calls second-year corner Janoris Jenkins by far the best defensive back on the team. Jenkins caught my attention Tuesday when he jumped a route and picked off the pass.
- McDonald's breakup: Rookie safety T.J. McDonald caught my attention by breaking up a pass for tight end Jared Cook in the corner of the end zone. The pass probably could have been thrown more to the outside, in retrospect, but McDonald made a good play. Cook's size-speed ratio makes him a tough cover.