With the New York Jets’ season on a potential downward spiral, it is up to Le’Veon Bell to prove he’s worth the money.
There is no way to sugarcoat this: the New York Jets are in trouble. The offense was downright awful, the defense folded when the team needed them most and the special teams left four points on the field in a one-point game.
With Sam Darnold, Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon not playing on Monday that leaves only two impact players on the offense. Robby Anderson is a huge part of this offense, but with Trevor Siemian in at quarterback, instead of Darnold, a poor performance from him is possible, if not likely.
For the Jets to win on Monday, they are going to need a monster game from their biggest star. Le’Veon Bell is going to have to carry this offense to a win.
The failures of Week 1 have created a must-win game in Week 2. After this game, the Jets will see the New England Patriots twice, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys over the next five weeks. It’s a brutal schedule, and if the Jets want any hope of fulfilling their lofty playoff goals, they need to win on Monday, end of story.
Bell’s Week 1 performance is garnering much praise, but we shouldn’t be celebrating. The simple truth is that after all the hype, Bell underperformed. His 60 yards on 17 carries was only good for 3.5 yards-per-carry. Among running backs with at least 15 carries in Week 1, Bell ranked ninth out of 15 in yards-per-carry. That’s not the kind of production the Jets are expecting out of Bell
So what about his impact in the passing game? That’s a huge part of Bell’s game and it makes him a special player. Bell had six catches for 32 yards, that’s good for 5.3 yards per reception. Among running backs with at least five receptions, Bell ranked 12th out of 13. He was thoroughly unimpressive in all facets of the game last week.
In total, Bell had 92 yards on 23 touches, that’s good for four yards per touch. Among backs with at least 20 touches in Week 1, Bell clocks in at ninth out of 10. That’s completely unacceptable. The Jets paid for a guy who had 5.2 yards per touch in their career, and Bell wasn’t that same player against the Bills.
Go ahead and blame Darnold, head coach Adam Gase or the offensive line all you want; it doesn’t change the fact that the Jets are paying Bell to be a difference-maker, and he wasn’t that in his debut. That will have to change if the Jets will have any chance to drag themselves out of the gutter this year.
This isn’t to say Bell looked lost last week. He had some very impressive runs, and he was responsible for the only offensive points of the day for Gang Green. He single-handedly kept the Jets in the game with an incredible fourth-down run. First-contact came three yards behind the line of scrimmage, but Bell fought to gain the first down.
He showed signs of being the back he was in Pittsburgh, but it was only there in glimpses. Bell wasn’t making people miss in the open field, nor was he taking advantage of his opportunities in the slot. Hopefully, it’s just rust because Bell is going to see an even larger amount of touches on Monday with Siemian starting. The gameplan will likely hinge on Bell being Bell.
Matchup Against the Browns
Despite the awful score in Week 1, the Browns defense didn’t play all that poorly. They currently rank 11th in the NFL in yards allowed per game and 10th in passing yards allowed per game. Their big weakness last week was their run defense, which sits 21st in the NFL in rushing yards per game. The Browns also rank 27th in run defense DVOA after Week 1.
This comes after the Browns defense had similar struggles last year. In 2018, they ranked 28th in rushing yards allowed per game and 25th in run defense DVOA. So, this is a well-established problem for the Browns. They can’t stop the run.
These numbers don’t always translate to success though, as was seen last year. When the Jets played the Browns last year they ran for 107 yards, which is decent. However, that came on 30 carries, which is only good for 3.6 yards-per-carry. Plain and simple, that is awful.
Still, this should be a good matchup for Bell. He’s played the Browns six times before in his career and he usually feasts on Cleveland. In those six games, Bell has averaged 90 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving, that’s good for 124 all-purpose yards per game. He’s done that on an average of 20 rushes and four receptions per game. That means he was averaging 4.5 yards-per-carry, 8.5 yards per reception, and 5.2 yards per touch. Those numbers are almost identical to his career numbers. He never played down to the Browns level.
Bell will likely see more than the 23 touches he saw in Week 1. He’ll likely be closer to 30 touches, and the Jets need him to perform. If Bell can get 150-plus all-purpose yards on Monday, the Jets have a chance to win this game. If not, they will likely lose to a very talented Browns team.
Bell was brought here to a playmaker and a leader. If he can’t be that guy when the Jets need him the most, against one of the worst run defending teams in the NFL, then what was the point of signing him the first place? It may be early in the season, and in Bell’s Jets career, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s time for him to put up or shut up.