Rams Youth Movement Thriving Entering Bye Week

Posted Nov 14, 2013

For the second consecutive season, the Rams began the season with the league’s youngest team, with an average age of 25 years old. However, the on-field contributions of the youngest players have not been nearly as green as their age may suggest.

Outside of the quarterback position, a rookie or second-year player leads the Rams in nearly every offensive category entering the bye week.

“Everybody’s different and it takes time,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “But we’re getting production out of a lot of the guys. Even this week, with the younger guys on the practice field. They know what they’re doing and they’re making plays.”

The Rams’ youth movement has rotated its chairman position as the year has progressed. In the opening weeks, it was second-year wideout Chris Givens that gained much of the attention after a 105-yard receiving game against Atlanta in Week 2. As the Rams searched for a dependable lead back, rookie Zac Stacy took the mantle as he has averaged 89 rushing yards per game since taking over as the team’s starter in Week 4 against Jacksonville. Last week, it was first-round draft pick Tavon Austin’s turn to post the best game of his young NFL career, tallying 314 all-purpose yards, including a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown and a pair of touchdown receptions.

“I’ve never really seen this much depth at different positions, especially on the offensive side of the ball, with young players,” veteran TE Jared Cook said. “Usually, you’ll at least have a veteran receiver or a veteran running back. But to have all rookies and all second-year players, it’s definitely a different look from what you usually see.”

Austin was the leading member of a standout afternoon by the Rams’ youthful offensive attack. As noted by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, out of 559 rushing/receiving/kick return/punt return yards attained by the Rams against Indianapolis, 540 were supplied courtesy of a rookie or second-year player.

Quarterback Kellen Clemens, who took it upon himself early on to mentor the Rams’ talented young offensive weapons, has been impressed with the rate of progress those players have made.

“That was an emphasis, I think, early on, but these young guys have done a great job,” Clemens said. They really have. They’ve come in, they’ve been pros. They’ve learned the playbook. They’ve learned how to execute in this environment and they’ve done a really good job. The training wheels are off for those guys and they’ve been off for a long time. You look at the things that (WR) Tavon (Austin) has done. You look at the things that (WR) Stedman Bailey is now starting to do, show his stuff. We’re excited about the young talent that we have in this locker room.”

The new challenge for the young contingent will be maintaining their level of production through the latter weeks of a 16-game NFL schedule, a test that many Rams will be facing for a first time.

“When you’re in college, you’re only used to what, 10 games, 12 games?” said Cook, who enters the bye week tied with Austin for the team lead with 33 receptions. “When you’re at 12 games here, you still have four to go. That’s why they call it the ‘rookie wall,’ but they’ve been doing a great job of persevering through it. This bye week is really going to help us. It’s just important that we come back off the bye week and still putting up the same numbers and doing the same things they’ve been doing in practice and in the games.”