One of the many players on the St. Louis Rams’ roster that many expected to break out this season was Stedman Bailey. Those expectations took a turn for the worst when the second year receiver received a four game suspension for violation the league’s substance abuse policy.
When Bailey received the suspension, fans were left disappointed as Bailey’s expectations and potential this season were very high, however many figured that he will be back and ready to go after his suspension and that the Rams will be just fine, after all, Bailey is the fourth receiver on the Rams depth chart.
All of that may be the case, and Bailey can come back after the four game suspension and still have an impact on the Rams’ season, however, what many may not realize is that the suspension may hurt the Rams more than one might think.
Ever since the absence of Danny Amendola, the Rams have missed their third down receiver that is in the right place at the right time and can be reliable to make the big catch. In 2012 Amendola had only two dropped passes and had a combined 39 receptions that went for a first down or touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, that made up for 12% of his receptions and was the sixth highest rate in the league.
What the Rams probably miss most about Amendola is his ability to get open underneath and the chemistry that he had developed with Bradford. That’s all in the past now, and Amendola and his glass-like body frame are now in New England, however the Rams are still missing that reliable third down receiver.
It was expected that role to be taken over by free agent pickup Jared Cook, but after fans learned that Cook doesn’t necessarily catch every ball thrown his way, that hypothesis was discarded. That role was unsurprisingly taken over by Austin Pettis, but Pettis was still inconsistent and would disappear for games at a time.
The one player that showed the most promise in that role was Stedman Bailey. Bailey has shown his ability to have reliable hands and be in the right place at the right time. According sportingcharts.com, 10 of Bailey’s 17 receptions last season went for a first down. Bailey’s 58.8% rate was only fourth among Rams receivers, but he only had one dropped pass and had a 77.3% caught which was the best among Rams receivers.
Bailey lead Rams wide receivers in receiving yards in the final five games of the season last year with 155 yards, had an onside kick recovery against the Saints, and then scored a touchdown on an end-around in week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bailey began to come into his own at the end of last season, and all of that has come out in training camp. Bailey is ready to take the next step, and it’s really a shame that we have to wait four games to see it.
This suspension is also big because Bailey and Bradford have developed good chemistry in camp and will have to regain that after the suspension which can be tough in the middle of a season.
“Stedman’s been great all camp, all spring,” Bradford said. “I think he’s going to be a big part of what we do when he gets back. Obviously, it’s a bummer that he’s not going to be with us the first four [games], but when he comes back, the timing and everything that we’re doing right now is to make sure that we’re ready when he does get back. He’s been very productive. He’s a very smart receiver. He’s always in the right place. He’s got a great instinct, just about feeling different zones and getting open. I think he’s going to be a big target in the offense this year.”
Stedman Bailey can still come back and make a big impact once he returns and should be expected to do so. However, what many have failed to realize is the impact that Bailey’s loss will have on the team while he is on the sidelines, and that impact may hurt the Rams more than what meets the eye.