Pagano not shy about praise for Austin

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The word frustration has probably been tied to St. Louis Rams rookie receiver/returner Tavon Austin more than anyone else through the first nine weeks of the NFL season.

Austin has been frustrated with penalties that have cost him big plays, fans have been frustrated by those infractions, as well as Austin's drops, and the list goes on and on. Despite that, plenty have remained steadfast in the breakout potential of Austin. As a rookie, it's unfair to make any sweeping declarations about his future only nine games into his career.

One person who isn't afraid to express his belief that Austin's early struggles will turn around sooner than later is Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.

During his Wednesday conference call with the St. Louis media, Pagano was asked a general question about what he sees from the Rams, this week's opponent. In a long and winding answer full of the normal bland and somewhat vague compliments, Pagano made it clear that Austin is a player his team is well aware of going into Sunday's game.

"And the special teams, you’ve got a dynamic returner in Tavon Austin that’s one of the best and going to be, arguably, maybe one of the best ever to play that position," Pagano said. "He’s a game-wrecker. He’s a game-breaker. I know the numbers are a little bit skewed because of penalties and things like that, but he’s one of the most dynamic guys. When we watched him coming out, it’s obvious why the Rams took him where they took him. The guy literally can wreck a game for you, not only on offense as a receiver, and no matter how he gets the ball and gets it in his hands, he’s a threat to score from anywhere."

All of the things Pagano mentions have been evident at various times this season, though that's high praise considering the numbers. Austin does have the speed and ability to make big plays, but so far those skills have only been evident on plays wiped out by silly penalties.

Of course, given the Rams' current situation, there would be no better time for Austin to prove Pagano correct than when he's standing on the opposite sideline.