Multi-dimensional speedsters are hard to prepare for in the NFL.
They can lineup anywhere and can score from any distance on the field. They can be damning on special teams on punts and kickoffs. They can make impact plays as receivers and running backs.
The Los Angeles Rams have one of those rare talents in former first-round pick, Tavon Austin. The fifth-year player has served as an all-around weapon for the Rams since being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars need to prepare for Austin in several facets on Sunday. Luckily for Jacksonville, the team has a comparable talent in running back/kick returner Corey Grant.
Jacksonville used Grant as a stand-in for Austin during practice. The third-year player was asked to mimic Austin's gadget play ability.
"It's really not that hard," Grant said. "The only thing - the difference between me and him - he can cut on a dime like really good. Other (than) that, I think it was pretty easy replicating him throughout practice because he is a speed guy and I'm a speed guy. But he can cut on a dime and I'm more of a straight line guy. I can cut and try to get like him but just not as good."
The two players have similar speed despite their size difference. The 5-foot-8, 179-pound Austin ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Grant, who is listed 5-foot-11 and 203 pounds, ran a 4.30-second 40-yard dash at Auburn's pro day in 2015.
The two speedsters have also garnered similar responsibilities this season.
With Rams head coach Sean McVay taking over play-calling duties on offense this season, Austin has been converted from a gadget wide receiver to a change-of-pace running back.
Austin has collected 5.4 yards per carry this season, picking 108 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He has added 19 yards on five catches, as well.
Grant is also a change-of-pace runner for the Jaguars. Along with his kick return duties, Grant has produced 97 rushing yards on nine carries this season. He has also caught two passes for 13 receiving yards.
While Grant has had to mock Austin's play this week in practice for the defense, he has also had to continue to work on offense. The added reps should help both sides of the ball for the Jaguars.
"I still have to get my reps on offense and sometimes that can take a toll," Grant said. "But at the end of the day, defense needs their looks and I'm still getting my reps on offense, so I have to fight through it."
Like Grant, Austin is also a threat on special teams. The West Virginia alum has scored three times on punt returns during his career.
However, recent return history hasn't been kind to Austin. The receiver-turned-running back has muffed four punts in five games this season. He fumbled twice last week against the Seattle Seahawks in a 16-10 loss at home.
Still, Grant believes Austin could turn things around if given the chance. It's unclear whether or not Austin will get that chance at EverBank Field this week.
"He's so good of a returner, you can't tell until game time," Grant said.
While Grant is quick to compliment Austin's return ability, the running back is looking to make an impact in that area of special teams as well. So far, Grant hasn't had a lot of opportunities to return kickoffs.
He is hoping the time comes this weekend against the Rams.
"Very anxious," Grant said. "We haven't been getting any kicks in the field of play. Most of them been in the end zone so to get that one kick and do something with it, I've been dreaming of it. Just trying to picture it when it happens."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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