(Eds: With AP Photos.)|
By STEVE OVERBEY
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Tavon Austin is waiting for his turn to shine in the St. Louis Rams' offense.
''It's all about patience and I'm sure my time will come,'' the speedy rookie receiver said. ''I'm learning what it takes to be successful and I'm doing the things the coaches tell me.''
Austin, the eighth overall choice, has struggled at times under the weight of some lofty expectations.
He has yet to display the breakaway playmaking ability that St. Louis was looking for when it traded up eight spots in the draft to secure the West Virginia standout.
Austin's pass-catching numbers are adequate. He has 31 receptions, first among rookies, for 207 yards and two touchdowns. But his longest catch is only 25 yards and he's averaging a meager 6.7 yards per catch.
Plus, he is tied for the NFL lead with seven dropped passes.
''This isn't supposed to be easy,'' he said. ''Maybe it was a little harder than I thought at first. But all I can do is keep working.''
Austin, known for his ability to get loose in the secondary in college, has 106 yards after catches this season, ranking 97th.
The 5-foot-8 176-pounder was a multifaceted terror in college. As a senior, he led the nation in all-purpose yards at 223 per game. He became the first West Virginia player to score four ways in a season with kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns and rushing and receiving scores.
But Austin has yet to get untracked on special teams although he has been slowed by penalties. He has returned 23 punts for just 90 yards, an average of 3.9 yards per return, good for 97th in the NFL.
Austin has lost 257 punt return yards due to penalties. His 84-yard punt return for a score in a 31-7 loss at Dallas on Sept. 22 was called back. Against Jacksonville on Oct. 6, he had three returns called back that totaled 81 yards.
St. Louis rookie wide out Stedman Bailey played with Austin in college and believes his friend will eventually live up to the high expectations.
''This is just life in the NFL,'' Bailey said. ''We both come from a place where we'd see 15 balls a game. Everything came through us. That's not going to happen here. It's just going to take some adjusting.''
Austin caught six passes in each of his first three contests, but has managed just 13 catches for 89 yards over the last five games.
The St. Louis coaching staff remains confident in Austin, who is part of a five-receiver rotation. Coach Jeff Fisher has worked hard over the last few games to help develop the running attack, which leaves fewer chances for Austin and the receiving corps.
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer pointed out that Austin draws a lot of attention from the defenses because of his reputation for big plays in college.
''With him not being out there every play, when you put him out there, the defenses start looking for certain things,'' Schottenheimer said. ''But he's had a good week of (practice). You'll see him make some plays starting this weekend.''
St. Louis (3-5) hosts Tennessee (3-4) on Sunday.
NOTES: Quarterback Kellen Clemens practiced Thursday after limited duty Wednesday. Clemens was banged up in Monday's 14-9 loss to Seattle and needed a little more rest, according to Fisher. ... The Rams will wear Royal Blue and Yellow throwback jerseys against the Titans. ... Fisher spent 16-plus seasons as Tennessee's head coach.