LeVeon Bell has signed with the Jets, ending one of the longest-running NFL circuses in memory. So much for the talk that the Jets would target "second-tier running backs," and so much for the frustrating Isaiah Crowell-Bilal Powell-Elijah McGuire committee. It should be a heavy dose of Bell going forward.
The landing spot always made sense. Powell is a free agent and coming off a season-ending neck injury; his career might be over. The expectation has been that Crowell would be released even before the team signed Bell. Bell, McGuire, Trenton Cannon -- that should be New York's 2019 backfield, and neither McGuire nor Cannon has shown enough to suggest they'll do much more than spell the new, highly paid starter.
The Jets have long incorporated running backs in the passing game, key to the value of guys like Powell and Matt Forte before him. But it's a new coaching staff, so fair to say there's some uncertainty as to how the offense will look. Considering Bell's receiving ability it would be foolish not to use him plenty as a pass catcher, so they'll probably work that into the offense.
The new coordinator is Dowell Loggains, who comes over from Miami with Adam Gase, and that's mildly concerning. Last year only 10 teams completed fewer passes to their running backs than the Dolphins (77). One of those teams was the Jets (68), tied for 2nd-fewest in that regard, so there's virtually nowhere to go but up.
|RUNNING BACK RECEIVING, 2018|
But the Jets also hired Jim Bob Cooter away from Detroit as running backs coach, and maybe he'll take over if the offense struggles early and Gase decides to scapegoat Loggains. Cooter's work in Detroit, most notably with Theo Riddick, is more promising. Last year only the Patriots completed more passes to their running backs than the Lions.
It's also promising that Loggains' offense in Miami used running backs as receivers in scoring plays. Dolphins backs caught 7 TDs last year, fewer than only two teams (Kansas City and New England).
Ultimately, the offense should use Bell plenty, not only as the main runner but also as a busy receiver. If you're hesitant to select him, it should be out of the fear that he's out of shape or lacking in motivation now that he's been paid.
There's definitely at least one game Bell will get up for, though. At some point during the season, the Jets will host Pittsburgh.