ESPN: Le'Veon Bell 'Can't Wait' to Play with New Jets OL

Jeremy Fowler Writes Joe Douglas Stuck to His Plan of Protecting Sam Darnold 


While Jets QB Sam Darnold should benefit from newfound protection along the offensive line as general manager Joe Douglas brought in eight O-linemen this offseason, RB Le'Veon Bell also has good reason to feel energized about the changes up front.

"Asked if he's noticed the Jets' aggressive pursuit of road-graders in front of him, running back Le'Veon Bell told me via text, 'Absolutely. Can't wait, either,'" wrote ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler in an article detailing the NFL’s five most intriguing drafts that included the Jets.

Fowler wrote that people around the NFL were curious how Douglas would run his first draft after the "luxury" of having a regular season under his belt.

"After free agency and the draft, personnel sources had one takeaway: Douglas clung tightly to his plan," said Fowler, who added an AFC personnel man said, 'He believes in building through the O-line and D-line. That makes for easy decisions when that's your philosophy.'

"After signing four offensive linemen (guard Greg Van Roten, center Connor McGovern, tackle George Fant, guard Alex Lewis) to three-year deals worth more than $80 million early in free agency, the Jets doubled down in the draft with run-blocking behemoth Mekhi Becton (6-foot-7, 364 pounds) at No. 11 overall. In both cases, the Jets prioritized Sam Darnold's pass protection over getting receiver help."

The Jets selected Becton and drafted another lineman in Round 4 with Charlotte's Cameron Clark before signing Washington OL Jared Hilbers in the undrafted free agent process. He also added wideouts Josh Doctson and Breshad Perriman to the receiving corps in free agency before selecting Baylor's Denzel Mims in the second round (No. 59 overall).

"Most agree [linemen first] is a good philosophy — Darnold was sacked 33 times in 13 games last season, and the Jets ranked 31st in rushing offense — but have questions about Darnold's downfield weapons. Free-agent addition Breshad Perriman was largely an enigma before catching fire late last season (17 catches, 349 yards, four TDs in final three games) with Tampa Bay, and as one AFC coordinator put it, second-round pick Denzel Mims is among the highest-risk, highest-reward receivers in the draft."

Douglas took his original eight picks and flipped it for 10 players (nine picks and a trade acquisition of CB Quincy Wilson from IND) while reacquiring his 2021 sixth-round pick from the Patriots that he originally traded for WR Demaryius Thomas last September.

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