The first day of Jets mandatory minicamp brought about a large media throng which included multiple national outlets. Le’Veon Bell, who signed with the Green & White in March, was the main attraction during a highly-anticipated June workout with the regular season still three months out.
“He brought good energy, but the offense, we’ve been working with some good energy all the way up until this point,” said center Jonotthan Harrison of the star running back, “and he’s just adding to that great energy that we already have.”
The 6’1”, 225-pound Bell, who lined up for the Steelers from 2013-17, has missed the club’s voluntary OTA sessions while training down in Florida. But when the offense took the field for the first team rep of mandatory camp, Sam Darnold handed off to No. 26. Despite being corralled in the backfield for a loss, Bell touched the ball on a few more occasions and delivered a deft move on cornerback Darryl Roberts in the open field.
“It’s a guy who’s been doing it for years,” said wideout Quincy Enunwa of the Green & White’s new bell cow. “Proven that he can do it over and over again. Even though we didn’t have pads on and we didn’t take a lot of reps, you could kind of see what he’s able to do with the ball in his hands. He had one play where he kind of had a few jukes in there. Like I said, it’s not pads, but you can at least see that he has those moves in him.”
See the Best Images from Tuesday's Minicamp Practice
Bell also impressed his teammates with his movements when the ball wasn’t in his hands and he wasn’t even involved in a play. Throughout practice when the first-team offense was not in action, Bell stayed within earshot of quarterback Sam Darnold.
“I would communicate the play to him and he would kind of run it in his head even if he wasn’t out there,” said the second-year signal-caller. “It was very good communication in terms of that, so it was very good to kind of have him back there and us communicating with him. He’s very eager to learn, which is really good, and we’re excited to have him out there.”
Left tackle Kelvin Beachum, a teammate of Bell in Pittsburgh from 2013-15, has firsthand knowledge of what Bell can do to a defense. He was there when Bell impressed as a rookie and then took the league by storm in Year 2 while rushing for 1,361 yards and averaging 4.7 yards a carry AND adding 854 receiving yards on 83 receptions.
“Make people tap out, make the defense tap out,” Beachum said of Bell’s most impressive achievements. “I can allude to a number of games where he literally just wore the defense out. We just kept running the same play over and over and over. They knew it was coming, we knew it was coming, and he made somebody miss and just wore the defense out. It’s not really one particular play unless you go back to like when we were in Green Bay and he hurdled somebody in the snow. But over time, you just saw him wear defenses out.”
Second-year safety Jamal Adams, who heavily recruited Bell to New York’s AFC representative throughout free agency, was smiling knowing he will have arguably the top back in the NFL on his side next fall. Bell, who turned 27 in February, has 17 games with at least 150 scrimmage yards. In 2016, he became the first player in NFL history to average 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game in a single season.
“Everybody knows he’s an All-Pro, he’s a Pro Bowler… if he’s not the best back in the league when he’s on the field,” Adams said. “We see that he can run routes, he can do it all, he can block. But not only that — he’s a great teammate, he’s a fun guy to be around, and again we’re excited to have him back.”
With Adam Gase stating that his offensive system is an “open book,” Bell’s versatility promises to benefit every skill position performer on the unit.
“It allows us to put us in different spots and it makes the defense guess, so he can play outside, inside, in the backfield, and he can move us into different spots as well,” Enunwa said. “I think everybody at the receiver position will be able to play multiple spots, so we can also put a running back out there, a tight end. It makes it really hard on a defense.”
Already feeling the love from his teammates, Bell doesn’t plan on taking it easy on the Jets’ defense though. After minicamp concludes this week, the chirping between him and Adams promises to heat up in training camp.
“He’s going to work, he’s going to compete,” Beachum said. “You have a loudmouth on defense and now we have a loudmouth on offense. It will be fun.”