New York Jets Still have Elite Talent in Running Back Le’Veon Bell

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase developed a very odd relationship with Le’Veon Ball last season, which will make the 2020 season even more interesting.

Adam Gase and Le’Veon Bell didn’t have the best relationship in their first season working together, but in 2020 the New York Jets would love to see Bell get back to his elite form. Despite the problems with his head coach, Le’Veon Bell was a class-act through all of it, even though having every reason not to be.

Not long after the Jets inked Bell to a massive four-year, $52.5 million deal, Gase already started randomly spiting the former All-Pro back. Rumors sparked of Gase not even wanting Bell. The Jets were reportedly considering trading him.

This was especially concerning because Gase’s coaching style doesn’t fit Bell’s playing style. Gase has been known to oddly hate throwing to his running backs, regardless of how productive they are in the pass-catching game. This had negative effects on former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill under Gase.

Tannehill was accused of holding the ball too long in the pocket, interestingly (or not really), Tannehill never had this problem as soon as he stopped playing in an Adam Gase-run offense. The Titans gave Tannehill options to get rid of the ball quickly, and he flourished; posting an astonishing 117.5 passer rating this past season.

Gase ended up keeping Bell on the roster but seemed to act like he wasn’t there. If Gase got fired in Miami partly due to not involving his talented backs in the passing game, one would think he would decide to then use Bell, one of the best pass-catching backs in football history, quite a bit.

Gase decided to be Gase, and not do what anybody who’s ever watched football would do, he decided to not include Bell in the air attack.

Bell was targeted 78 times this season, the only other times he’s had fewer targets than that were his rookie year, where he played in just 13 games, and 2015, where he played in only six. He played in 15 in 2019, there’s no excuse.

It wasn’t the quarterbacks’ fault, the biggest problem was that Gase wasn’t even designing enough plays for Bell to be featured in the passing game. This was even in a passing attack that had very underwhelming options to throw to otherwise.

Some national writers and football fans who don’t actually follow the Jets blamed Bell for much of the Jets’ struggles to run the ball last year.

A huge part of Bell’s game is to create mismatches by being so versatile in both the rushing and passing attack, and if Bell isn’t given the chance to succeed in the passing game, he literally can’t perform to the best of his ability.

It’s confusing as to why Gase couldn’t just simply use one of the best pass-catching backs in the history of football in the passing game. However, Gase can’t confuse anyone anymore at this point, sabotaging his team is what he does.

Bell couldn’t have been in a worse situation–he still has plenty of elite running back capability in him. Unfortunately, he probably shouldn’t be compared to the likes of Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Nick Chubb at the moment.

Putting Bell in the category of those guys right now would probably not be fair because they put up better numbers last year. Bell would have if Gase didn’t seemingly attempt to ruin him.

Not to mention, Bell was behind the league’s worst offensive line. The line has improved this offseason, and hopefully, it’s enough for Bell to overcome Gase’s stubbornness in his playcalling.

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That’s how good Bell might be, if there’s anyone to overcome it, it could be him. Keep in mind, Bell has been given opportunity after opportunity to complain, demand a trade, or give up on his team, but he hasn’t, and even stepped up as a leader and was there for his young quarterback when many football fans and media members attacked Sam Darnold for his play.

He defended Darnold after the game, and sure enough, Darnold ended up proving that he was one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL over the course of the rest of the season. Bell was a great teammate, don’t listen to any other narratives about who he is in the locker room, he still meant a ton to the Jets last year.

Bell didn’t have the same burst he had in Pittsburgh, but he certainly still had enough to be an elite running back. Gase is who’s mostly responsible for holding him back. With an improved line, Bell can maybe overcome his terrible head coach, and be right back to where he was.

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After all, maybe even Gase will accept his mistakes. His former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake took off as soon as he left Miami. Maybe Gase will finally realize why his former players seem to always start producing once he’s out of the picture.