ST. LOUIS — Tavon Austin specialized in dropping jaws at West Virginia, as a wealth of YouTube videos chronicling the wow factor attest again and again. One of the smallest players in the league at 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds, the St. Louis Rams wide receiver/running back/kick returner has always been one of the hardest to corral.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will try to keep the Arizona Cardinals guessing in today’s opener with his new toy. In his NFL debut Austin is liable to show up in the backfield, in the slot, out wide and in motion. His 81-yard punt return in the preseason is a preview of his worth on special teams, where a sliver of space can be enough.
“He’s ready to go. He’s prepared to do whatever we ask him to do for us this week,” coach Jeff Fisher said.
Takes one to know one.
Arizona Pro Bowl cornerback and punt returner Patrick Peterson returned three punts for touchdowns as a rookie in 2011, including a 99-yarder in overtime to beat the Rams, and might show up on offense. Peterson said there are 60 plays designed just for him, about 10 of which will be in the game plan this week.
New coach Bruce Arians reasons it’s too much ability to waste on one side of the ball. Arizona has only four wide receivers on the roster — Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and undrafted rookie free agent Jaron Brown.
“Fitz was kidding me,” Peterson said. “He said, ‘Technically, you’re our fifth receiver.”’
Let the gadgetry begin.
Fresh faces: Arizona, which lost 11 of 12 to end last season, has 26 newcomers on the 53-man roster. Fourteen will start in a serious makeover project. At the very least, quarterback Carson Palmer reasons, he’s not the only one getting used to new digs.
“Everybody’s on the same page where it’s a brand new system, a brand new offense, a brand new defense,” Palmer said.
Only about a dozen players in St. Louis remain from the pre-Fisher era, and he’s just entering Year 2. All seven draft picks made the team this season, and 28 players are in their first or second year for a franchise that lays claim to being the NFL’s youngest for the second straight season with average age of 24.98 years.