New York Jets head coach Adam Gase announced that Le’Veon Bell will not play during the preseason and it appears as if that is the right decision to make.
When the 2018 season concluded for the New York Jets, it was clear that changes needed to be made. After all, the team once again disappointed, finishing with a lackluster 4-11 record and once again failing to make the playoffs.
Since then, the team has indeed made changes, including bringing in new head coach Adam Gase, new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and new general manager Joe Douglas.
Changes were also made to the roster, however, and the Jets made the biggest splash of the off-season when the team signed star free agent running back Le’Veon Bell to a four year $52.5 million contract.
Widely considered to be amongst the best backs in the league, Bell not only gives the Jets a type of dynamic playmaker that they’ve lacked for years but he’s expected to immediately provide the Jets offense, which has long been stagnant, with a much-needed spark.
Despite reports that he’s performed well in practice, however, that spark has yet to be seen as he hasn’t appeared in two pre-season games thus far. And as it turns out, Bell won’t get a chance to perform in a live game against another opponent until the regular season begins in a few weeks, as Gase told CBSSports.com:
“I feel like he’s in great shape, he’s been contacting about as good as anybody on the practice field. I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go week one,” Gase said. “He’s in a good place right now. The way he’s working in practice, the way he’s running the ball in practice, I feel really good about him when we hit the regular season.”
While Jets fans are undoubtedly eager to see the team’s biggest addition in action, this decision made by Gase appears to make quite a bit of sense.
First and foremost, Bell sat out for the entirety of the 2018 season due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Given the number of touches he’s been given throughout his career and the wear and tear he’s dealt with over the years, it wouldn’t seem wise to rush him back into action. Instead, Gase’s plan to slowly build him back up and prepare him for game-like situations seems like the smarter approach.
In addition, having Bell play often throughout the pre-season wouldn’t only increase the chance of him suffering an unnecessary injury. This idea was just seen with Jets linebacker Avery Williamson, who suffered a torn ACL in last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, an injury that Gase blamed on himself for keeping Williamson in the game too long.
“Looking back on it, hindsight is 20/20, I wish I would’ve gotten him out of there a series earlier. I talked to him. It’s on me. I’m the one who has to make that call and get him out of there. We didn’t. It’s a shame because he was having a good camp.”
Williamson’s injury is certainly a blow to a Jets defense that is already struggling with depth issues and the team can’t risk a similar situation playing out with Bell.
Having totaled 1,291 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 321 attempts and 85 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns in 2017, Bell’s importance to the Jets as a dual-threat back cannot be taken lightly.
If he performs at the level he has at in the past, Bell has the ability to not only take the Jets offense and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold to new heights, but he has the ability to take the team overall to new heights.
That possibility simply can’t be risked by playing the 27-year-old in the pre-season.