The New York Jets offense is facing the challenge of adjusting in a crucial manner in order to feature Le’Veon Bell in 2019 and beyond.
Le’Veon Bell is not a plug-and-play running back. As bad as that sounds on the surface, it serves as the exact opposite in reality. His talent is overwhelming to the level that an offense must be molded around such a diverse skill set. If failed to be met, maximum production is never achieved.
This means the New York Jets will need to take on serious adjustments this summer.
Hold the Block
Bell is, perhaps, the most patient running back the NFL has ever laid eyes on. At times, his patience actually feels like a joke.
What the man does in playing cat-and-mouse games with second-level defenders defies logic. The outcomes usually represent a positive nature yet some negatives creep into the fold.
The offensive line will be taught to hold the block rather than maul defenders.
Instead of surging forward in natural fashion, holding the block for this running back is of the utmost importance. Never is a play dead. Rarely can a rushing attempt take too long. With Bell, the impossible becomes possible based on his slow, methodical pace and intention.
At times, it feels like every Bell rushing play is a draw. Other times, it looks like the offensive line is pass protecting during a Le’Veon run call.
Jets offensive line coach Frank Pollack will have his hands full this summer as it pertains to teaching longer engagement rather than a brute-force attack.
Counters, Misdirections and Draws
Jets head man Adam Gase loves himself the zone-rushing scheme. This equates to a ton of stretches, inside zones and zone splits. It’s the same scheme Jets fans are accustomed to during the Rick Dennison-coached season of 2018.
Think Mike Shanahan and Terrell Davis in the late 1990s. The attack likes to feature lighter offensive linemen who can move. Playing in space is the goal. Double-teams at the point of attack only to move onto the second level when appropriate becomes the main name of the game.
Le’Veon Bell can absolutely work within the zone concept. More critically, he’s genius within man-on-man misdirection schemes.
Deliberate plays such as the counter, misdirection and draw will rule the rushing attack portion of Gase’s playbook. Pulling lineman and tight end splits and whams with Bell taking his time and lining up his second-level target will fit the bill for his specific skill set.
Gase has no issues dialing up man concepts, either. While the zone attack dominates his playbook, counters and traps are delivered when necessary. Expect more of it in 2019 due to Bell’s dominance via the slower-developing plays.
The Outside Weapon
The passing game also needs to adjust as per Le’Veon Bell.
While the run-and-shoot days of four wideout looks are far gone, with Bell employed, rarely will a four-wide receiver look ever see the light of day. Instead, the 11 personnel serves as the dominant personnel package.
This is true from an overall NFL standpoint as is yet with Bell, it’s even more concrete.
The man can line up anywhere on the field. Outside, slot, wing—he runs receiver-specific routes with excellent precision. It allows for more defensive discomfort. When rolling with an empty set out of 11 personnel, suddenly, a linebacker or strong safety has to head himself up on Bell. It’s not fun.
For the Jets, offensively, Elijah McGuire (or whoever wins the role of Bell’s backup) will need to follow in the shadows. Whatever Bell can do, the backup needs to emulate as much as humanly possible. Having to change the offense so drastically if Bell misses games (which he’s been known to do) is a tough chore.
The Blocking Tight End
Thanks to Bell’s comfort level in following a lead fullback, the Jets have to ensure at least two legitimate blocking tight ends appear on the depth chart.
Gase never carries fullbacks, and that’s OK. The equivalent is a blocking tight end who can line up in a wing spot and act as the split man in a zone scheme or serve as the lead fullback when called upon.
Salary cap implications aside, there’s no question the workhorse’s skill set is a plus for any football squad. This holds true even prior to the above adjustments. His talent alone would find a way home.
To ensure maximum production, however, driving a “hold the block” narrative to the offensive line, mixing in more deliberate rushing concepts like the counter, misdirection and draw, capitalizing on his outside versatility, and employing at least two true blocking tight ends is the recipe for true Le’Veon Bell dominance in 2019 for the New York Jets.