Injury to Robert Woods Provides Possibility for Tavon Austin

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Updated: November 25, 2017
A Tavon Austin future in Los Angeles could be negated if the Rams are able to find a trade partner after the 2017 season.

The Rams have just suffered a big reality-check loss to the Minnesota Vikings, and to add to the negatives from the loss, they suffered an even bigger price: the loss of Robert Woods.  Woods was announced to have suffered a shoulder injury that, according to Sean McVay, would keep him “out a few weeks.”  Ouch.

Robert Woods has been a huge offensive weapon for the Rams as of late.  After a series of satisfactory performances in the first half of the season, in Week 9’s game against the Giants, Woods finally began to make his performance known when he turned a 3rd & 33 into a 52-yard catch and run touchdown.  The week after, in what appeared to be a stagnant and low-scoring affair against the Houston Texans, Woods was able to track down and catch Jared Goff’s Hail Mary pass before taking it to the house for a 94-yard score, in what was easily considered the turning point of that game.  Unfortunately, Minnesota’s red-hot defense was able to shut him down, and he ended up leaving with an injury.

So with Woods gone for a few weeks, the question lingers: who replaces him?

The immediate first answer most Rams fans and sports analysts would think of would be Sammy Watkins.  Watkins has four touchdowns on the year, and despite his skills as an elite wide receiver, Watkins has not been targeted often, with only 24 receptions.  It appears the Rams are heavily relying on Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, but Kupp had a forgettable outing against the Vikings, and obviously Woods is out with injury.

However, all this actually provides a chance for Tavon Austin to step back into a wide receiver role.  Austin entered the season coming off injury, before he was gradually integrated into the offense as a running back, and has gotten 171 rushing yards, as well as one touchdown.  It largely contrasts to last season, as Austin was a major part of the Rams’ offense.  But that was under Jeff Fisher, and we all know how that turned out.

So I would be willing to call this a second chance for Austin to return to his receiver role.  The only stumbling block I can see is his catching ability.  Probably the biggest doubt-providing piece of evidence would be his punt returning.  Obviously in order to return a punt, you have to catch it, and Austin wasn’t doing that, as there was a stretch of games where he muffed four punts, and lost three of them to the other team.  If Austin can work those kinks out, he should be a threat.  He has already proved that he can run the ball very well, so this all hinges on his ability to catch.

Ultimately, it isn’t very likely Austin will be returning as a wide receiver, but this is a big opportunity.  The Saints are probably the toughest opponent the Rams have matched up with so far, and Austin back at WR could provide a bit of a curveball that the Saints may not have seen coming.  Unlikely, but possible.  He has the ability, he just needs to put it into action and he may prove to us he’s still got it.

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