Increased Role Suiting Pettis Just Fine

Posted Oct 3, 2013

While much of the attention surrounding Rams receivers through the first quarter of the season has centered around first-round draft pick Tavon Austin, free-agent acquisition Jared Cook and returning big-play specialist Chris Givens, Austin Pettis has quietly become one of the team’s most reliable targets in the passing game.

Through his first two seasons with St. Louis, Pettis would often go overlooked amongst his receiving brethren, as he accrued a pedestrian 57 catches for 517 yards over those first two years. Four games into Year 3, Pettis is on track to eclipse both of those figures during this season alone. Pettis ranks second on the team with 18 receptions and third with 173 receiving yards. His two touchdown receptions equal the team’s best mark with Austin and Cook.

For an offense that is still looking to hit its stride, the timing of Pettis’ increased offensive output could not have been better.

“He’s got a good feel for what we’re doing,” Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “We’ve been talking about emphasizing the running game and that’s what we’re going to continue to do that. But as far as Austin’s been concerned, he’s making plays and moving sticks for us.”

Pettis’ growth, in part, has been due to a growing familiarity with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and his system. For the first time as a professional, Pettis has had multiple years to get accustomed to the same offensive scheme.

“This being my third year, I feel a lot more comfortable, getting adjusted to not just the NFL, but also the offenses and concepts and really understanding those,” Pettis said. “It helps me to play fast, so I think just being more comfortable helps me to play fast, and the results are there.”

Much of Pettis’ work continues to be done under the radar, with his steady contributions often outshined by those around him. Pettis had a breakout game of sorts in Week 2 against Atlanta, finishing with a career-high eight catches and 78 yards. That showing was overshadowed, however, by a 105-yard receiving day by Givens. That’s just fine for Pettis, who has been a chief benefactor of opposing defenses game-planning against the Rams’ more flashy offseason pickups.

Pettis is well-adapted to the role of quiet contributor. In his four years at Boise State University, Pettis never was the team’s leading receiver, but never finished lower than third in yardage. At 25 years of age and now the veteran of a young receiving corps, Pettis leads by example in St. Louis. While his development has garnered little outside attention, those inside the locker room and coaching staff have taken notice.

“I think ‘A.P.’ is as solid a wide receiver as we have on this team,” Bradford said. “He’s probably the most versatile wide receiver in the fact that he can play every spot on the field. We can put him anywhere and I’ve got the confidence in him. He’s extremely smart. He knows every position. He’s got a great feel for getting open. Last week, I thought he did a great job with his releases at the line of scrimmage taking advantage of the one-on-one match-ups that he was getting…hopefully we can continue to get him the ball.”