On the Roster in 2019
|RB-WR Ty Montgomery
Injured Reserve/NFI: Cannon, Jalin Moore
Potential Free Agents in 2020
Unrestricted: Montgomery, Powell.
There was no ominous foreshadowing in the summer of what was to come. After a year off, Le'Veon Bell, who signed with the Jets in March following an illustrious five-year run with the Steelers, looked like his vintage self on the practice field, newcomer Ty Montgomery was one of the most impressive players at training camp and people wondered how dynamic he and Bell could be on the field together at the same time, and Bilal Powell, one of the top rushers in franchise history, provided the Green & White another strong option out of the backfield.
Despite the talent assembled, the Jets struggled on the ground for most of the 2019 season while finishing 31st in both rushing (78.6 Yds/G) and rush TDs (6). They lacked explosive plays throughout, ranking 32nd in 20+ runs (2) and tied for 31st in yards per carry (3.3). Cohesion lacked in front of the backs as the offensive line battled through a myriad of injuries, starting 11 different players and lining up with nine different combinations. Teams stacked the box early against Bell, who, after amassing 92 total yards in a Week 1 loss against Buffalo, became a marked man when Sam Darnold was out with mono in Games 2-4.
Bell's team-leading 789 yards on the ground was the second-lowest output of his career, eclipsing the 556 yards he posted with Pittsburgh during a six-game campaign in 2015 in which he served a four-game suspension and later suffered a torn MCL. Montgomery's role on offense never really materialized as he had one less attempt than Darnold on the ground (32-33). Powell, who for a set of games spelled Bell on the offense's third possession, led the backs with a modest 3.9 YPC.
Remaining a reliable option as a pass catcher, Bell finished second on the offense with 66 receptions. The 6'1", 225-pounder was an excellent blocker and his 1,250 yards from scrimmage led the Jets, but this was not an easy year.
"When I did sign here, I didn't expect us to go 16-0, you know what I'm saying?" Bell told reporters. "I knew it would be a process. I understand everything. We got a young quarterback, a whole group of guys coming in — new offensive coordinator, head coache. ... I understand what goes on. It's not like basketball. You can't take one or two guys and change a team."
See the Best Photos of Le'Veon Bell and the Running Backs During the 2019 Season
Jets GM Joe Douglas has been forthright about Bell, saying teams inquired about the two-time first-team All-Pro prior to October's trading deadline and reiterating he would listen if teams call him in the future. Still Douglas was impressed with Bell's approach during a trying campaign.
"He's done everything we've asked him to do as a person, as a teammate," said the first-year GM. "I touched on it last time I talked to you guys, he's one of our best workers, he's one of our best teammates, he connects and engages with everybody. So, I can't say enough positive things about Le'Veon."
Bell has three years remaining on his contract that was structured heavier in the back end of the deal. Head coach Adam Gase believes the upcoming offseason will help the Jets come up with a better plan moving forward.
"We'll be able to take a break and then when we come back we can really hone in on some of those things that maybe we missed or we did too much of that he wasn't really comfortable with," he said. "You know, it's one of those things that allows us to evaluate kind of what we did as an offense, and then I can go back to him and we can talk through that stuff when we get back in the spring."
The Jets have decisions to make on Montgomery, who led the club with 364 kick return yards, and Powell. This positional group could have a totally different look in 2020.
"I'm a guy that is extremely patient, not just on the field," Bell said. "I understand it takes a while to build a stable program. I'm here for it. It's what I want to do. I'm not saying I'm ecstatic about it. I'm not saying I'm down about it. I understand it's a process, getting things going in the right direction."