The way they line up on opposite sides of the field to spread thin the strengths of the secondary. The unparalleled speed and ankle-breaking jukes. The high steps. The high fives. The swagger.
He’s seen it all before.
“Turning on the game film West Virginia week, that’s the first thing you noticed,” says Cody Davis, a St. Louis Rams rookie safety. “They have an attitude. They’re going to go out there and do their thing, put up a lot of points and have a good time doing it.”
Davis knew plenty about receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey when he signed with St. Louis as an undrafted free agent. He and his Texas Tech teammates studied the West Virginia duo for a solid week in October 2012 before limiting the pair to just one touchdown and snapping the Mountaineers’ five-game winning streak. Starting Thursday, Davis will line up across from Austin and Bailey again during training camp, and he has already seen enough in organized team activities and early rookie workouts to make a prediction. The West Virginia twosome has a chance to be just as dangerous in the NFL.
“Whenever they are in space, they start doing the little strut, setting you up for all the moves,” Davis says. “Man, I haven’t seen people shake like those two out here on the practice field. They’re doing it at this level so far, too. Some of their routes are just ridiculous.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher has swatted away any idea of a link between his team drafting Austin eighth overall, then adding Bailey with the 92nd pick. He says the Rams didn’t consider the benefits that might come with the familiarity between the two dynamic receivers who rewrote West Virginia record books in 2012, combining for 42 touchdowns and nearly 4,700 all-purpose yards.
But on the verge of training camp, he admitted the chemistry certainly can’t hurt.
“They’re good friends,” he said. “They’re roommates. They challenge each other. They study together.”
The last part could be the most important. At West Virginia, quarterback Geno Smith ran the entire offense through signals. The playbook was stripped down for the sake of speed. NFL players must process complicated verbiage in seconds.
“In school, we would probably install three plays per day,” Bailey said recently. “Now, it’s like 22. That’s a huge step.”
One he’s not making alone, at least not during training camp.
“We are roommates,” Austin said. “We quiz each other while we’re in there. It’s a blessing that Stedman came with me. We are learning, together.”
According to STATS LLC, something like this — two receivers bouncing from college to the NFL together in the same year — has happened only 12 times since the modern draft started in 1967. The success of those pairings, shown below, has varied. But Davis, the closest the Rams have to an expert on stopping Austin and Bailey, expects big things.
“I’m excited to see what they can do,” he says.
He’s not the only one.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.