Jets hint at Le’Veon Bell’s enticing strategy

The Jets appear to lose another wide receiver to injury every day of training camp, but their top receiver in recent practice hasn’t worn a wide receiver number, but a number 26.

Jets coach Adam Gase has insisted on throwing the ball to Le’Veon Bell in recent days, a possible foreshadowing of what he has planned for this season.

“I feel like we can find better ways to give him the ball to help him create more explosive games,” Gase said Tuesday. “We can get it into space better than what we did last year. I think there was a lot of good that came out of what he did in the receiving game last year. But I don’t think we’ve ever given him enough space to work, because that’s his game.

Not much worked out well with Bell in 2019, his first season with the Jets. A weak offensive line, adapting to Gase’s system and coming back from a year off, all of this led to one of Bell’s worst seasons as a pro. In the passing game, he caught 66 passes for 461 yards and a touchdown. These are solid numbers, but Bell can do more. He had 85 catches for the Steelers in 2017.

Most of Bell’s catches last year came from the backfield. He has lined up wide just 41 times and in the slot machine 28 times, according to Pro Football Focus. If Gase can devise ways to align Bell more, the Jets could have a weapon that will make up for what they lack at the wide receiver.

“If he’s got space to work he’s going to make a guy run out,” Gase said. “Or if a DB tries to attack him, it’s hard to take him down against the high school guys. So if we can keep finding different ways to mix things up, whether we’re in training, freeing it up, putting it on empty, getting out of the game. I think we really need to use the whole gamut and find so many different ways of getting him to play in space as possible.

Le'Veon Bell
Le’Veon BellCorey Sipkin

The addition of Frank Gore might actually help Bell in this regard. Gase trusts Gore more than any of the backups from a year ago. It’s possible that the Jets have Gore in the backfield and Bell is widely splitting to create some interesting showdowns.

During the last two practices, Bell has been a frequent target of Sam Darnold.

“We’re trying to do a couple of things that we maybe haven’t done before or that he hasn’t done before or things that really weren’t in the early parts of the installation and we have really kind of pretty deep and involved these guys, ”Gase said.

Gase has already involved running backs in the passing game. Knowshown Moreno had 60 receptions for the 2013 Broncos with Gase as the offensive coordinator. Matt Forte had 44 takes with the Bears in 2015 when Gase was the coordinator. Kenyan Drake had 53 receptions in 2018 with the Dolphins when Gase was the head coach.

The Jets had three healthy running backs on Tuesday – Bell, Gore and Josh Adams. It also played a part in the emphasis on the passing game, but Gase seems optimistic about what Bell can do.

“I feel great when these guys get into the passing game,” Gase said, “and I think he really is, he can see his road shaft really widened and we keep trying new things and if he likes something, hey, we make sure we start over and if it doesn’t like something, we’ll throw it away.




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