Found July 03, 2013 on
Fox Sports Midwest:
Last Year: New faces were common in St. Louis Rams' special teams meetings last season. The coach (John Fassel), the kicker (Greg Zuerlein) and the punter (John Hekker) all experienced their first year as Rams. The result? Some memorable moments, like the 58 and 60-yard bombs Zuerlein sent through the uprights against Seattle. But, as a whole, the Rams have plenty of room for improvement in 2013.
Coach: Fassel, 39, is the son of former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel. Before joining Jeff Fishers staff last season, he served as the special teams coordinator for the Oakland Raiders.
1) Will Austin be an X-factor?
St. Louis averaged 21 yards per punt return in 2012, which placed them 26th in the 32-team league. No Ram took a punt past 50 yards, and no punt return reached an end zone. Even worse was the teams execution on kickoff returns. St. Louis didnt take one kickoff to the house, and instead averaged a measly 6.6 yards per return in 2012, second-worst in the NFL.
The hope is that Tavon Austin, the versatile and speedy rookie out of West Virginia, changes these hard-to-swallow numbers. On the night he was drafted 8th overall by the Rams, Austin mentioned having an impact in the return game. He showed promise during the organized team activities, catching punts one-handed during drills and burning up the sidelines during no-contact scrimmages.
For St. Louis, his help cant come soon enough.
2) Can Zuerlein be more consistent?
Sixth-round draft pick Greg Zuerlein quickly became a fan favorite last season. A rookie who doesn't bat an eyelash at attempting 13 field goals of 50-plus yards (three more than any other NFL kicker) deserves the attention. But the 25-year-old will be the first to tell you that he needs to be more consistent.
"It was probably the worst year I ever had," he said recently, reflecting on making 23 of 31 kicks.
Kicks of 50-plus yards are generally a crapshoot. Zuerlein should look to lock down his shorter tries. Three of his eight misses came between 30-39 yards, a range that should be nearly automatic for the man with the "Greg the Leg" nickname.
3) Will Ogletree be a force in the kick-blocking game?
St. Louis totaled two blocks last year. One came via Janoris Jenkins, who swatted a 26-yard field goal attempt by the New York Jets. The other belonged to Matt Mulligan, who got a hand on a Washington Redskins punt before relocating to the Green Bay Packers this offseason.
Part of the excitement that surrounds rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree is the athleticism he can bring to kick-blocking scenarios. When Sports Illustrated writer Peter King sat in with the Rams during the NFL Draft, he witnessed this conversation between the teams linebackers coach, Frank Bush, and Fassel.
"Can I have Ogletree for punt blocks?" Fassel asked.
"Yeah, he blocked six punts in college," Bush said. "He's great at it."
While Ogletrees official college stats only mention one blocked punt during his Georgia days, the point is this: the outside linebacker is a force on special teams. If he doesnt block a kick or punt as a rookie, he should at least be able to provide pressure and open a lane for one of his teammates. The Rams should have more than two blocked kicks this year.
Quote: "Last year, I missed too many, I felt. They gave me plenty of opportunities. I just didn't pull through. That's something I want to eliminate." - Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein to FOXSportsMidwest.com
What Others Are Saying: A realistic goal for the Rams this season should be to climb out of the bottom-half of the leagues' special teams units. The Rams ranked 26th, according to Football Outsiders regular-season special teams rankings for 2012. Dallas Morning News writer Rick Gosselin tabbed the Rams No. 25 in his rankings, which assigns a point value to 22 special teams categories.
Strength: The most-recognizable faces on the Rams special teams were both rookies last year. The kicker and punter are back with more experience, and that should mean improvement. Meanwhile, the addition of dynamic rookies Austin and Ogletree should boost both return numbers and the pressure the Rams bring on the other end.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or email him at email@example.com
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
During a speech in front of high school athletes, Rams first-round draft pick Tavon Austin told a story about how Twitter got him into some trouble with the team's GM.
St. Louis Rams specialists Johnny Hekker, Greg Zuerlein and Jake McQuaide set out to prove a couple things with this trick shot video that was filmed with Dude Perfect. 1. Punters (and kickers and long snappers) are people too. And 2. Punters, kickers and long snappers boatloads of free time.
The highlights include a 75 yard punt into a baby pool, a 60 yard field...
St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins has yet to see rookie receiver Tavon Austin play in an NFL game, but he's seen enough in the offseason to know what a special player he's going to be.
"He's pretty fast, he's a dynamic receiver," Jenkins told NFL Network, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. "Great speed, great hands, great quickness. I...
St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins joined the Rams last year as a rookie and saw a team that could battle with the big boys. In his second year, Jenkins feels the team is on the cusp of being one of the big boys. He says the addition of free agent tight end Jared Cook and drafting explosive wide receiver Tavon Austin could be the pieces that gives the Rams the power to...
The Rams selected West Virginia wide reciever Tavon Austin with their first round selection in this year's draft. When speaking to high schoolers at a Nike event, Austin relayed a story about how his new professional franchise frowned upon the activity on his Twitter account...
Tavon Austin: "three strippers followed me, I flowed them back. Next thing I know I...
Even with training camp looming, the NFL feels more like an episode of Law & Order. While Aaron Hernandez is making the headlines with his murder charges, I shift the focus to another tight end that should actually make an impact on the field.
Jared Cook made the move from the Tennessee Titans to the St. Louis Rams. The BBQ in Nashville and St. Louis are both good, but they...
We discuss social media quite a bit here. While there are numerous ways platforms like Twitter and Instagram have enriched our lives, being a public figure and maneuvering through the social space can be tricky.
St. Louis Rams first-round draft pick Tavon Austin spoke to high school athletes at Nike’s “The Opening” earlier this week. The event is a football camp for elite...
Detroits Havard Rugland is living the dream. The Norwegian kicker actually has a better than average shot at making the roster in Detroit and he has a trick shot video to show for it. If you haven't seen this thing give it a look and you'll understand why he has been dubbed 'Kickalicious.'
As luck would have it, he is not the only kicker that is kickalicious. With...
(via Getty Image)
It’s no secret that NFL front office people have to get a handle on the social media usage of the players they employ. For the most part, there’s more harm than good that can be done when players use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and so on. Of course, there’s no hard and fast way to enforce players sticking to football acceptable platitudes when using social...
Twitter can be a dangerous place sometimes, especially for high-profile athletes. Tavon Austin found that out the hard way.
The Rams’ rookie wide receiver, who already has over 53,000 followers, got into some hot water with the organization in recent weeks when he gained three new, somewhat high-profile, in their own right, followers, according to Taylor Holliday.
Austin, 22, told...
According to Geoff Mosher of Comcast Sports, free agent S Quintin Mikell is having initial conversations with the Panthers.
Mikell, 33, graded out as the No. 5 safety in the NFL, according to ProFootball Focus but was released by the Rams in March due to age concerns. Mosher mentions that a deal could get done soon but there has been little interest in him in the free agent market...
ST. LOUIS -- Rams punter Johnny Hekker and kicker Greg Zuerlein have arrived. For that, they can thank those masters of the trick-shot video, Dude Perfect.
A YouTube sensation, Dude Perfect spent a couple of days at Rams park with the Rams' special team standouts last month and the result is a video of precision punts and unbelievable kicks and that will leave you scratching...
The newest video from Dude Perfect features them visiting the St. Louis Rams and seeing their punter Johnny Hekker and having a few guest appearances from their kicker Greg Zuerlein and long snapper Jake McQuaide. Not only does Hekker bust out some incredible punts, he shows off his throwing arm and gives a hilarious interview. I’m sure Rich Eisen loved his “Punters Are...