Second in a series analyzing the New York Jets.
The Jets signed Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million deal in 2019, hoping he could bolster their rushing attack. Instead, the Jets running game was terrible and Bell struggled. They added a veteran and a draft pick this offseason and hope Bell can have a bounce-back year.
Bell is back for a second season with the Jets after some speculation the team might trade him. The truth is his $13 million salary made him an unmovable piece even if the Jets wanted to ship him out.
There are reasons to hope Bell can have a better year with the Jets in 2020 than he did in 2019, when he rushed 245 times for 789 yards and three touchdowns and caught 66 passes for 461 yards and one TD.
The biggest is an improved offensive line. The Jets will likely have four new starters along the line this year. Most of the attention has been on how that will help quarterback Sam Darnold, but it also should help Bell, who was constantly hit in the backfield last year.
The relationship between coach Adam Gase and Bell will be under the microscope again and it is on Gase to get more production out of Bell. That could mean getting him more involved early in the game to get him rolling. It could involve splitting him out at receiver more. It could be simply finding plays that Bell likes. Whatever the answer is, Gase has to find it.
Bell is too good to not be a weapon for the Jets. It is well known that Gase was not in favor of signing Bell when former GM Mike Maccagnan did. Gase needs to get over it and figure out a way to get Bell rolling this season.
The Jets’ overall rushing attack was abysmal in 2019. They ran for a total of 1,257 yards, which ranked 31st in the NFL. There were four individual players who rushed for more yards than the Jets did as a team.
The crew behind Bell will have a different look this season. The team recently signed Gore, the No. 3 all-time leading rusher in NFL history. There are questions of how much Gore has left in the tank, but the Jets are confident that Gore can be a major contributor. He also gives them another leader in the locker room and a solid influence in the running backs room.
Gore and Gase are close. The two have known each other since 2008 when Gase was an assistant with the 49ers early in Gore’s career. They were together in 2018 in Miami and now are reunited. Just how big a role Gore will have on the field is going to be interesting to watch. Gore had 156 carries two years ago in Miami with Gase. He had 166 last year in Buffalo.
Gore’s days as a workhorse back are over, but he can still give Bell more rest than he had in 2019.
The Jets drafted Perine in the fourth round. It is hard to know exactly what to expect from a fourth-round pick as a rookie, especially with this unusual offseason. But Perine showed a lot of promise at Florida and the Jets are excited about his potential.