A bounceback year for Le’Veon Bell would not only see a significant uptick for the New York Jets running back in terms of rushing yardage but also in his contribution in the passing game. Turns out, projections only have the talented running back making a marginal improvement upon a down 2019.
Bell is one of the premier running backs in the NFL in terms of being dangerous when he gets into space. As such, his first season in New York a year ago proved to be a disappointment running the ball, with a career-low 3.2 yards per game.
It was also lackluster in terms of receiving as well and it is a trend that might well continue into 2020 based off projections.
According to SI’s fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano, Bell will have 409 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns this year. He had 461 receiving yards a season ago. If these numbers hold true, it would be a third straight playing season where Bell saw a drop in receiving yards from the year prior.
At the start of training camp in early August, Jets head coach Adam Gase talked about getting the ball into Bell’s hands in more dangerous spots. Part of the problem last year was an offensive line that did a poor job of opening up running lanes for the running backs. Now a revamped unit should help Bell both in terms of running the ball but simply letting the three-time Pro Bowl running back be a viable part of a cohesive offense.
“It’s just about getting the ball in his hands and letting him go do things. Letting him make defenders miss, finding ways to get him in open space, and it’s really variety,” Gase said on the first day of training camp.
“It’s just trying to move him around and not always make it to where a defense can say he’s always going to be doing this, or if he’s in this spot he’s always doing this. Something that we were working on in the walkthrough yesterday of just kind of showing him all these different spots we can put him in and what he can do with it. For me, I can see him embracing that, and he’s looking at that, and you can tell when he’s listening, he really knows: this can help me open up my game a little bit more compared to last year. So, I think he’s really done a good job of engaging what we’re talking about.”
Now, the good news is that Bell’s impact in 2020 figures to be higher than last year, albeit not by much. He is projected according to Fabiano to have 1,272 total yards, an increase from his 1,250 total yards last year (he projects to have 863 rushing yards).
Fabiano also has Bell at seven total touchdowns, a rather significant uptick from his four total touchdowns in 2019. Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets last offseason under then general manager Mike Maccagnan.
These projections don’t necessarily reflect on a declining impact from Bell or a stagnant offense. The projected output by Bell is surely imapcted by the presence of Frank Gore, signed in free agency this offseason, as well as the drafting of La’Mical Perine.
Gore, the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher, will have some significant touches this year in the backfield rotation, although Bell should get the majority of touches on a weekly basis. In addition, the Jets should also be eyeing some occasional work for Perine, who has impressed Gase over the past few days of training camp.
Coming off a 4.62 time at the NFL Combine, Perine is turning out to be much faster than that.
“What you saw in college, didn’t match up to that 40 time because there’s some runs there. I mean, he had some really big games against really good opponents and players on the other team,” Gase said this week during his virtual press conference. “And, today was the first time that we got to see it in a situation like that. And I mean he pulled away from those guys, you saw, there’s something to me when he gets into a game situation, his speed looks completely different than what a 40 time might look like.”