Rams rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin can create matchup issues for the Bears against man and zone schemes. Think of him on inside breaking cuts, underneath option routes and vertical concepts that cater to his playmaking skills.
As shown here, the Rams have their Posse (or 11) personnel on the field (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) in a Doubles Slot formation with a bunch alignment to the closed (strong) side. The Bears counter with their base nickel sub package (five defensive backs) playing Cover-3 in the secondary (three-deep, four-under). With Austin aligned as the No. 3 receiver in the bunch, the Rams will look to create a matchup with the rookie versus the Bears zone defense.
Austin's skill set
- Bio | Recent columns
VOTE: Who ya got ... Bears or Rams?
Who wins in St. Louis on Sunday?
Bears win big (388 responses)
Bears win close (1035 responses)
Rams win close (230 responses)
Rams win big (60 responses)
Tie (14 responses)
1727 total responses
(Results not scientific)
This poll is closed to voting.
- Professional Football
- Tavon Austin
See more topics »
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
Edward Jones Dome, 901 North Broadway, St. Louis, MO 63101, USA
The rookie from West Virginia has top-tier lateral ability in the open field plus legit straight-line speed (4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine) to eat up a defender's cushion on the deep ball. During the Rams victory over the Colts in Week 10, Austin produced more than 300 total yards with big plays on the deep 9 (fade) route and the underneath crosser that exposed man-coverage. Austin only has 33 receptions, but the Bears still have to account for his ability to produce explosive plays.
Breaking down Hi-Lo crossers
To the open (weak) side, Brian Quick (X) aligns with a reduced split tight to the core of the formation (Hi-Lo alert) and releases inside on the drive route with running back Zac Stacy (R) on the swing route. To the closed side, tight end Jared Cook (Y) runs the inside seam (can convert to a dig route) with Chris Givens (Z) on the underneath crosser working back across the formation. That leaves Austin (H) on the rail route. The rookie will take an outside release and then stem the route vertically to the bottom of the numbers.
Creating matchup with Austin
With the Bears playing Cover-3, nickel back Isaiah Frey (N) is responsible for the closed side curl-flat drop. Frey will widen on the snap and carry/match the rail route from Austin. With cornerback Tim Jennings (LC) squeezing the vertical release of Cook (route also occupies the strong safety), quarterback Kellen Clemens now has Austin working down the field versus Frey. Put the ball up and let the rookie go make a play.
Underneath crossers vs. zone coverage
If Clemens doesn't target Austin on the rail route, he can look underneath to both Quick or Givens on the crossing routes. Givens can sit his route down in the hole between Chris Conte (FS) and James Anderson (W), while Quick can extend the crosser to the closed side of the formation with Frey now removed versus Austin. The Bears zone defenders have to get to their landmark drops, read the eyes of Clemens and drive on the throw to take away these underneath options for the Rams quarterback.
Don't forget about running game
While Austin can provide the Rams with opportunities passing, they have another rookie to keep an eye on with Stacy. The 5-foot-8, 224-pound running back plays with balance, is strong on contact and will show a burst through the hole. Considering the issues the Bears had defending the run versus the Ravens out of their seven-man/nickel fronts, the Rams should test this unit with Stacy early.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.