NY Jets Optimistic Roster Breakdown: RB Le’Veon Bell

NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NY Jets (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

NY Jets running back Le’Veon Bell had a difficult 2019. What must go right to make 2020 a success?

The NY Jets probably didn’t expect the year they got out of Le’Veon Bell in 2019 when they originally signed him to a massive four-year, $52.5 million contract in the offseason.

Bell struggled to the tune of his worst NFL season rushing for just 789 yards and three touchdowns on an absolutely abysmal 3.2 yards per carry. Bell was, quite frankly, the least effective starting running back in NFL.

Of course, this was hardly all his fault.

An atrocious offensive line, poor offensive scheme, and lackluster coaching staff all contributed to what had to be the most challenging season of his football career. And going into 2020, it’s hard to know what to expect from the three-time Pro Bowler.

But we’re out to be optimists here. Bell undoubtedly has the talent to be one of the most productive running backs in the NFL again. So what would he need to go right in order to ensure that happens?

How could 2020 be a success for Le’Veon Bell?

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We continue our optimistic outlook series by breaking down what must go right for Bell this season.

Optimistic stats projection

  • 239 carries, 1,003 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 7 rushing TD’s
  • 70 receptions, 638 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

*All optimistic stats projections are based on a 16-game output because….optimism*

Bell put together the worst statistical season of his NFL career by a wide margin in 2019, but in our optimistic scenario, he bounces back with more than respectable numbers in 2020.

The two-time All-Pro once again surpasses the 1,000-yard mark and boosts his yards-per-carry average up an entire yard. He more than doubles his rushing touchdown total from a year ago. And he does so by receiving six fewer carries in the process.

The Jets are going to cut back on Bell’s workload, probably more so than in these projections. But if Bell is too good to keep off the field, the Jets are going to be forced to use him more than they plan to.

And that’s exactly what happens here.

Bell is also incredibly productive in the passing game hauling in four more receptions than last year but nearly 200 more yards — a product of more creative play design that doesn’t primarily use him as a check-down option.

In total, Bell receives 309 touches which is still a drop from his days in Pittsburgh, but a much more productive season than his first in green and white.

How Le’Veon Bell could find success with the NY Jets in 2020

Those numbers seem great and all, but how could Bell feasibly accomplish that? Well, much like Sam Darnold, he can’t do it all by himself.

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The Jets offensive line must show significant improvement from last season — particularly with their run-blocking. The addition of Mekhi Becton certainly helps, but players like Connor McGovern, Greg Van Roten, and others must prove that they’re just as capable run-blockers as pass-protectors.

Open up some holes for Bell and he’ll flourish.

But it doesn’t only come down to the play of the offensive line. Head coach Adam Gase must get a lot more creative with his usage of Bell.

Last season, Gase primarily used Bell as a between-the-tackles runner feeding him to the figurative wolves with dives up the middle on first and second down. Bell can run with power, but using him primarily in that fashion limits his effectiveness.

I’d like to see more off-tackle runs this season, particularly to the left side of the offensive line behind Becton. Line up Chris Herndon at the wing, Trevon Wesco in the offset-I, and run Bell on a stretch off left tackle.

That could be the Jets’ bread and butter if done right and it’s likely where they’ll find more production out of Bell.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jets must be more creative with their usage of Bell as a receiver. It’s easy to point to the fact that Bell recorded 66 catches in 2019 and insist that the Jets utilized him a ton in the passing game.

But just as most things in life, it’s quality over quantity.

The vast majority of those receptions came while he was the check-down option, generally on third down. That’s evidenced by his career-worst (save for his six-game 2015 season) 7.0 yards per reception.

Gase must do a better job of running plays where Bell is the first or second read. Force Darnold to get him involved in the passing game and draw up plays that are designed to get him the football.

Screens help but so too does simply lining Bell up in the slot. The Steelers did that quite a bit during Bell’s best years in Pittsburgh yet it’s something that Gase seemed reluctant to do in 2019 despite the lack of talent at wide receiver.

The Jets still have a weakness at the position and Bell could not only be used to mask that weakness, but to excel in his own right.

The offensive line is important, but you could easily argue that Gase and the offensive coaching staff have just as much if not a greater impact on Bell’s success in 2020.

So if the offensive line shows major improvements in the run-blocking department and Gase does a better job of highlighting Bell’s many strengths, then there’s no reason why we can’t see the “old” Bell this season.

NY Jets Optimistic Roster Breakdown: QB Sam Darnold. Next

The talent is still there, the Jets just need to find a way to tap into it.