The last time Le’Veon Bell suited up for a NFL game the movie Black Panther had yet to premiere and LeBron James was still on the Cleveland Cavaliers. It has been a while, and Bell seems ready to get back after it.
After practice this afternoon, Bell told reporters gathered around his locker that he told new Head Coach Adam Gase, “Don’t hold back. . . When I say, ‘Don’t hold back,’ I mean literally that. I don’t want to go out there and try to sprinkle me in or anything like that. I’m ready to play football.”
It is clear that Bell is ready to start playing again after his infamous holdout with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but how will he do on his new team?
Consensus thought out there is that Bell will not be the same guy he was with Pittsburgh, and I agree. The Steelers have had one of the best offensive lines over the past decade while the Jets have struggled to find stability in their organization, let alone the o-line.
Currently Pro Football Focus has the Jets offensive line ranked 28th out of 32 NFL teams. Meanwhile, the Steelers sit at number three. The downgrade is definitely going to hinder Bell’s rushing numbers. It does not matter how “patient” the running back is behind the line of scrimmage. He had the ability to dance at the line and find a crease because of how good PIT was up front. That is not the case with the Jets. This does not mean that Bell is in for a terrible season, but it has to be considered in how well he will play.
In his last three seasons in Pittsburgh (obviously discounting 2018) Bell averaged 4.8 yards per carry. There is little chance he reaches that mark in New York with the guys he has blocking for him, but that does not turn Bell into a pumpkin. The former Michigan State Spartan will have an invaluable role as a pass-catcher coming out of the backfield.
With Sam Darnold entering his second professional season, Coach Gase will try and make it as comfortable as he can for the quarterback. Checking the ball down to a guy like Bell makes life pretty easy, ask Big Ben Roethlisberger. So despite the fact that Bell will have tougher sledding on the ground, he will still be a huge piece of the offense. He will be his old-self once again, but won’t reach the level of production that he had with the Steelers.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)