ST. LOUIS — Giving more snaps to rookie receiver Stedman Bailey isn’t going to turn around the Rams’ season. Heck, Brett Favre in his prime would have been challenged to right the St. Louis ship.
But when’s it Week 10 and you’re 3-6, have lost your franchise quarterback for the season and the toughest part of your schedule still is to come, a positive development of any sort is welcomed.
And watching Bailey, a third-round pick, rise to a relevant role on offense certainly qualifies. Bailey had played only four offensive plays all season before getting in for 11 snaps in last week’s loss to the Titans. He made the most of the one pass thrown his way, too, turning a short reception into a 12-yard gain by essentially crawling his way to a first down.
An impressive play that made more than the fans take notice. At coach Jeff Fisher’s day-after press wrapup Monday, he basically announced that Bailey’s time has arrived.
“We’re going to get him more involved,” Fisher said.
“Here’s a guy that has worked his way up with opportunities,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said after Wednesday’s practice at Rams Park. “He’s now very comfortable with the system. His ability speaks for itself. The arrow points up.”
Of course, the Rams might not be so ready to give Bailey his shot if the team was playing as expected. You haven’t forgotten the summer of hype about all the new and improved skill-position players, have you? Well, if Bailey plays more, someone else will play less. Brian Quick is the most likely candidate, though Tavon Austin could see decreased time, too.
”It’s not unusual that we play four or five receivers,” Fisher said, clearly not worried about how the team will find opportunities for Bailey.
While Bailey believes he has improved in his short time in the NFL, he’s not sure that’s why his coaches have told him to prepare for increased duty Sunday at Indianapolis.
“I feel like the coaches finally have come around,” said Bailey, who has impressed with his special teams play all season. “It’s a point where they feel I just need an opportunity.”
Though Austin, his college teammate and fellow rookie, is faster and has the moves to make tacklers miss in the open field (in college, anyway), Bailey is regarded as a better pure receiver because he has better hands and runs more precise routes. He will line up on the outside more than Austin, who sets up all over the field.
In their final seasons at West Virginia, Bailey and Austin caught the same number of passes, 114. Bailey, however, had more than twice as many TD receptions last year, 25-12.
While Austin was essentially handed playing time from the time he stepped on the field — it’s nice to be a first-round pick — Bailey has had to bide his time. He says he has put in his work and maintained the right attitude. Though barely two months into his first season, Bailey was beginning to wonder if he would get his chance this season.
“I didn’t think it would take this long,” he said. “It’s been humbling and it’s been hard, but I kept a positive mindset and believed my time was going to come. And here I am with the opportunity. Now I have to make the most of it.”
Another rookie, running back Zac Stacy, has emerged as the Rams’ most pleasant story of the season. Perhaps Bailey can provide more hope for the future. In what has been a disappointing season, the Rams can use any and all positive developments.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.