There's a pep in the players' steps at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center with the season opener three days away after an NFL season that seemed uncertain at times during an unprecedented offseason.
"You can feel it in practice," RB Le'Veon Bell said. "Knowing it's a game week, that first Wednesday practice feels different than training camp. Guys understand what's at stake and the season is about the start. Everybody is excited about it. It's kind of hard to put the feelings into words, but guys are ready and we're hype about it. It's going to be real fun to go up to Buffalo and compete with those guys."
This time last year, Bell was preparing for his Jets debut, against the Bills at MetLife Stadium, where he rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries in addition to 6 receptions for 32 yards and 1 score. He totaled 789 yards and a career-low 3.2 yards per carry last season in 15 games and added 461 receiving yards on 66 receptions. Bell transformed his body in the offseason -- he has only 4% body fat and is ready to put his best football on display with a better understanding of Head Coach Adam Gase's offense in Year 2.
"It's not even close," he said. "It's like night and day for me. Me looking at the team, guys are a lot more comfortable, they know their assignments, especially Sam [Darnold]. He knows exactly where to go and what to do, what situation to put us in. Coach Gase doesn't really have to tell him to do everything, he kind of knows it. On the outside looking in, our O-line is new, those guys picked up things well during training camp. I couldn't be more proud of these guys up front. It's going to be fun. We do have to put it all together. I think we have a good team, we have to put it all together and I think we'll be special."
Bell and the revamped Jets offensive line that will likely have five new starters compared to Week 1 last year, will face a Bills defense that finished No. 3 overall in 2019 but No. 10 against the run, allowing 103.1 yards per game. Their front seven lost Jordan Phillips, their sack leader last season, and Shaq Lawson in free agency, but added Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler, who have combined for 358 tackles and 70.5 sacks.
"They have two good corners, two good safeties, a good front seven and they're well coached," Bell said. "You can't really trick them on a lot of things. They're going to line up, you're going to know where they are. They're not really trying to trick you too much, so it's going to be fun. This is a team we're familiar with, they're familiar with us. It's really going to be about who executes better, who can adjust better because it's Week 1 with no preseason. Both teams will have some wrinkles in Week 1, but whatever team is able to adjust quickly will have a little bit of an edge. We have to make sure to be on our P's and Q's."