New York Jets head coach Adam Gase admits he probably misused Le’Veon Bell last season, but not the way you might think.
Meet public enemy No. 1: Adam Gase. (Well, there’s no need to meet him; just allow him to populate your brain for the next several minutes.)
Gase—as he’s done many times while with the Jets—welcomed the heat on his shoulders.
“Last year, I feel like I did a bad job at the beginning of the season,” Gase told reporters on a Wednesday morning virtual Zoom call.
Adam Gase admits he may have done a bad job early last year with Le'Veon Bell in this regard: he overused him in the running game, especially against loaded boxes. Was taking unnecessary shots.
Says it's critical to look at it in this mold: we need him to "finish the season."
— Robby Sabo (@RobbySabo) August 12, 2020
Bell, 28, enters his second year in the offense as a seasoned vet—up in age for a back in the NFL. Many fans and media pundits alike agreed that Gase did not utilize Bell efficiently in 2019. But most of the criticism dealt with a lack of touches rather than too much work.
His 245 rush attempts after a full year away from the game did not come close to touching his loaded 321-rush effort in 2017 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bell even hit 244 total attempts his rookie season in just 13 games played, which is far more useful than his 245 number in 15 games a year ago.
Furthermore, his pass-catching abilities were not put to perfect use. Bell only snagged 66 receptions, the third-lowest mark of his career. (Only his 13-game rookie season and six-game 2015 campaign produced lower numbers.)
The Jets head-man does not see eye-to-eye on the “how” part of the Bell-misuse equation. Instead of feeding him more, Gase felt as though he force-fed him too often early on in the 2019 campaign.
“I was really trying to get him going, and at the same time, teams kind of knew what we were doing, and they were loading up the box and he was taking some shots.”
Interestingly, another part of the equation (in Gase’s mind) is upping the total number of plays.
“(We need to) make sure we do a good job of creating more plays for ourselves,” Gase added. “When we’re coming out of games and we have 52 plays, 53 plays… we need to get up to that 65-70 range, and now we can use him more.
“It’s just about getting the ball in his (Bell’s) hands.”
New York finished 28th in the NFL with 59.8 plays run per game in 2019,” per Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania. However, they would have ranked 11th in the league during the time of Sam Darnold’s return (Weeks 6-17) with a sparkling 64.3 offensive plays-per-game mark.
Much of the offensive issues the Jets experienced in Gase’s initial year centered around the Luke Falk games. As is the case around this time of year, nobody is making excuses. The head coach even knew his workhorse back would not go down that route.
“I know you guys are gonna talk to him today,” Gase said. “He’s (Bell) never gonna blame anybody else.”
Gase was right.
“I’ve been hearing that’s it’s been the O-line, that there were O-line issues,” Bell told reporters on Wednesday. “I just kind of look at myself (and ask), ‘Was I the best that I could be? No. I know I wasn’t even close.’
“The coaches do a good job putting run plays and pass plays in, so if you have a run play, a lot of times when you’re running a designed run play, it’s a good run play for the desired box. You know what the defense is gonna line up in, so it comes down knowing where the unblocked guy is.”
Much like the head coach, the player is holding himself accountable. The culture-preaching Joe Douglas must be smiling at this very moment, kicking back with an imaginary Jamal Adams-inspired cigar. More purposeful words have not been spoken in and around this organization in quite some time.
Forget play-calling (which is usually a vastly overrated football aspect). Forget strategy. Forget stacked boxes. It’s simply a matter of getting the job done.
“Whether it’s six or seven guys in the box, or eight guys in the box, everybody’s gonna have a hat on a hat, with that one free guy, you have to make him miss,” the Michigan State product said.
As far as 2020 is concerned, it’s a brand-new season, despite the limitations due to the ongoing pandemic. While questions persist about Le’Veon Bell’s ultimate usage at his age, and with Frank Gore and La’Mical Perine nipping at his heels, Adam Gase already sees a major difference.
“He’s fired up to go, I know that,” Gase said. “He’s in great shape. You can tell he worked extremely hard down in Florida.”