In June Le'Veon Bell was asked if people had forgotten about his elite abilities because of his year away from the game.
"Maybe a lot of people have forgotten a little bit just because they haven't seen it in a long time," he said. "It's normal, that's what humans do. But once I go out here, I play the first game coming up people will be reminded."
Bell has now played a quarter of the season and Jets fans have gotten to see some of his trademark patience, his relentlessness after first contact, his drive to maximize yards such as when he tried to hurdle some Eagles at the end of a reception last Sunday.
The yardage hasn't been there yet. Due to the offense's struggles, Bell is averaging 3.8 yards per offensive touch, which, if it holds up for 12 more games, would be the lowest of his six-year NFL career.
But Le'Veon's drive and durability militates against that outcome. He wants the ball to try to create for the Green & White and he's been getting it. His 98 touches puts him on pace for 392 for the season, which would be second-most in his career behind his 406 with the Steelers in '17 and fourth-most in Jets history. The first six totals all currently belong to Curtis Martin (*16-game projections):
And while the Jets have had several outstanding pass-catching backs over the years, Bell could be their best. He's caught 27 of the 32 passes targeted for him and his 108 projected receptions would rival WR Brandon Marshall's 109 in 2015 for the most by any player in a season in franchise history.
But next is to get the yards/touch trending in the right direction. Two factors in favor of that happening at MetLife on Sunday: QB starter Sam Darnold returns to action, and the Cowboys are yielding 5.4 yards/touch to opposing backs, 22nd in the NFL after five weeks.
Tackling His Role with Gusto
Neville Hewitt was still smiling at midweek but the inside linebacker was still feeling the aches and pains of his 16-tackle game at Philadelphia.
"That might've been my career high," Hewitt told me. "It felt like it. I still feel it. But that's all part of it, playing linebacker."
Indeed, they are the most of his five-year pro career. He also had 3.5 tackles for loss/no gain vs. Philly, and he has a team-leading stat line since he moved into the starting lineup after Avery Williamson's season-ending injury — his 34 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 5.0 TFL/NGs and five QB hits all lead the defense.
The age-old NFL problem with tackles is that they're not official. The league-wide totals available to fans record only the pressbox statistics compiled at that moment during games. The only tackles that regularly get revised are sacks, which are official. But Hewitt's 10 tackles from the Philly pressbox, while solid, aren't as impressive as the 16 that the Jets coaches gave him after their video breakdown.
We go with the coaches' tally for Jets totals, and those 16 tackles are tied for fifth-most by a Jets defender on the road since 2000 (*playoff game):
|Jonathan Vilma||2005||DEN||18||Sam Cowart||2003||NE||16|
|Jonathan Vilma||2004*||PIT||17||David Harris||2013||ATL||16|
|Eric Barton||2008||NE||17||Demario Davis||2017||DEN||16|
|LaRon Landry||2012||NE||17||Neville Hewitt||2019||PHI||16|
While Hewitt is happy with those numbers, he's also proud of his unit.
"The defense is going to keep getting better," he said. "For us, it's really small things. If we can just come out and start fast that first drive, it's going to be hard to score on us."
A good test for that theory and for Hewitt's tackling abilities will come against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the 'Pokes..