If there was ever a time for pre-holdout Le’Veon Bell to show up, it would be now as he comes off the IR.
It’s a big ask for someone who is just recovering from a hamstring injury, but the Jets desperately need the All-Pro playmaker to step up with starting QB Sam Darnold out as well as many other weapons still dealing with their own injuries.
Bell, once again, had trouble in the run game back in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, though their defense is one of the best in the league. He had just six carries for 14 yards.
The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are letting up 124.5 rushing yards a game, which is right in the middle of the pack in the NFL.
As Bart Scott and Chad Cascaden pointed out on “Jets Game Plan,”Joe Flacco offers a stronger arm than Darnold this week at quarterback. Flacco isn’t afraid to throw the deep ball, and if there’s success there, the Cardinals’ defense may have to adjust their secondary by playing off receivers a little more. In turn, the box won’t be stacked with defenders looking for the run or to blitz on lots of snaps.
The Jets’ run game has a modest Pro Football Focus 71.7 grade, too, so Bell may be able to find some holes and you that patented patience in the run to pick up positive yardage. Since joining the Jets, Bell hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards. His most ever in New York was 87, against the Baltimore Ravens of all teams, back in Week 3 of the 2019 season.
Head coach Adam Gase tries to make up for the lack of rushing yards with targets to Bell out of the backfield, where he also is dangerous when he has the ball. In fact, his hamstring injury actually came while running a wheel route that most running backs in the NFL can’t execute in the first place.
If blitzes are coming early from the Cardinals to try and rattle Flacco -- he hasn’t seen game action all season other than two snaps in last week’s loss to the Denver Broncos – dumping off to Bell or Jamison Crowder would be the option to avoid the pressure and get the ball out quickly.
Either way you frame it, Bell should be getting good touches this week because the Jets need to try something different on offense if they wish to pick up their first win of the season. Whether it’s rushing the ball and picking up tough yards, or breaking out in the passing game, the Jets are going to need to see some of that Pro Bowl stuff from Bell now. There isn’t really much else to work with.