Le’Veon Bell has every right to be disgruntled, the New York Jets star running back inexcusably being underutilized despite the struggles of the offense for a fifth straight week.
The Jets, 0-5 and coming off yet another blowout in Sunday’s 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, are at the bottom of the NFL in nearly every offensive category. So to deny Bell the ball despite him being an All-Pro running back on a team desperately short of playmakers, is puzzling.
Bell ran the ball 13 times on Sunday for 60 yards, adding one catch for seven yards.
It was a shocking lack of use for Bell, which led him to go on Twitter and ‘like’ several social media posts about his lack of involvement in the offense.
“We try to get him the ball, sometimes when you got a guy inside-outside of you, it is what it is, sometimes a defense takes guys away that we’re trying to get the ball to,” Jets head coach Adam Gase said on Monday in a conference call with the media.
“I get it, an aspect of players, they get frustrated when they feel like they should either be targeted more, get more touches I mean, there’s a lot of guys feeling that way. We just got to go back to work and figure out ways to get our guys involved. I mean, I hate that’s the route that we go with all this, instead of just talking to me about it but seems the way that guys want to do it nowadays.”
The excuses from Gase are as weak as his pointing to the team practicing well last week as reason for hope that the Jets can turn things around.
In several of the tweets 'liked' by the Jets running back, there was mention from angry Jets fans that Bell should be traded because he isn’t being utilized properly. It may be a not-so-subtle message from Bell about his desire to get out of town.
This was Bell’s just second game of the season, having missed the previous three weeks with a hamstring injury. Perhaps the lack of touches was done to ease him back in what was his first game in nearly a month.
But the situation with Bell extends back to last year, his first season in New York. He was woefully underutilized throughout the year as well. Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals is the latest chapter of his underutilization by Gase.
Given that he is outstanding in the passing game, his lack of touches is bizarre. In Week 1, despite missing most of the second half with the aforementioned hamstring injury, he had two catches for 32 yards.
Limited touches, for sure, but the kind of output that shows he can be a rather significant part of the offense.
That is, if the play-calling isn’t hampering his ability to get his hands on the ball.
Gase isn’t pleased with Bell’s tactic of taking to social media to passively vent about the situation, something that Bell ironically criticized safety Jamal Adams for doing. The Jets head coach offered a weak excuse for why his 28-year old running back, three times a Pro Bowl selection and twice an All-Pro, was ignored in the offensive game plan.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak with him on those specific topics yet. I mean, is what it is, I know he’s frustrated that we haven’t won, it wasn’t necessarily the plan of not targeting him in the past game, it just kind of ended up being that way with how they were they were playing us,” Gase said.
So that’s what it is, I mean, just try to find ways to move the football that’s all we’re trying to do, and it doesn’t always go exactly as planned.”