New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell is looking likely to return from his brief absence this week after missing Sunday’s game with an illness.
Bell missed last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins with an illness marking yet another unfortunate absence for a Jets player this season. However, all signs point to the former All-Pro running back playing this Thursday night.
Head coach Adam Gase told reporters on Monday that Bell is “close to 100” and that the team is hopeful that he will be able to return for their upcoming matchup with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football.
Given the short week, many of the Jets’ players will have a difficult time rehabbing and getting healthy enough to play in Week 15. That’s why Bell’s progress is even more encouraging.
In Bell’s absence, the Jets saw a heavy dosage of Bilal Powell who received a season-high 19 carries for 74 yards while also hauling in two catches for 14 yards. Prior to that game, Powell hadn’t received more than seven carries in a game.
And with his increased touches, Powell produced and he arguably looked better than Bell had all season. There’s something to be said about the way Powell runs and the way Gase utilizes him.
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Perhaps the longtime Jets tailback is a better fit given the current state of the team. Either way, it’s hard to argue with results.
We also saw a fair amount Ty Montgomery who rushed the ball nine times — also a season-high — for 31 yards while adding three catches for 30 yards in the air. The converted wide receiver has become an afterthought in the Jets offense this season so it was nice to see him get some touches on Sunday.
Bell’s return — while obviously encouraging — isn’t likely to provide much of a boost. The Jets are set to take on a Ravens team that hosts the sixth-best run defense in the NFL. Meanwhile, Gang Green is last in nearly every rushing category.
It remains to be seen just how frequently Gase will use Bell, Powell, and Montgomery with a fully healthy backfield once again. But given how well Powell played last week, it might make sense to still give him an increased workload.
That said, if the inevitable happens and the Jets fall behind by a large margin early it may not matter who’s playing running back unless they’re catching the ball out of the backfield or lined up at receiver.
Still, Le’Veon Bell’s return is at least a glimmer of optimism heading into a game that could get ugly real quick.