After signing with the Jets in March, RB Le'Veon Bell probably didn't expect his new club would start 1-4. The 27-year-old Bell also likely didn't anticipate that he would be averaging 3.0 yards a carry at this point with his long run being just 13 yards. The holes have been hard to come by for Bell, who has created most of his 256 rush yards after contact. And yet Bell, who has always been able to see daylight when others couldn't, believes the best is ahead for the Jets' rush attack.
"I understand that we're getting better. I can sense it," he told reporters Friday. "Literally at the third, fourth quarter of the Cowboys game, I was feeling it. I was like, 'Okay I'm starting to get some seams, I'm starting to hit some holes,' and now I'm starting to see them. They were prepared for the run because obviously we had to try and run the time out, and we were still able to get some efficient runs. We'll get better. I think as long as I continue to run hard and those guys continue to do their assignments and stay on guys, we'll get better as time goes on."
Bell's 13-yard carry in the third quarter against Dallas was his longest of the season. He had a trifecta of 3-yard gains on the Jets' final possession including a pair that were close to going for far more.
"I think there's been a couple times where we've at least started to get him going, he breaks a couple tackles," said head coach Adam Gase. "I thought this last game, he had some big runs in the fourth quarter, especially on that last drive. He had two runs where we're just finishing a block away from a couple of those being really big. We just have to keep getting things cleaned up, we have to keep figuring out a way to get better and executing everything to perfection, or working towards it, to get him a shot to get to that safety level."
The 6'1", 225-pound Bell has not only received 82% of the Jets' rush attempts this season, but he also is tied with Jamison Crowder atop the team's reception chart with 28. Bill Belichick will probably again focus much of his defensive game plan towards two-six after limiting the dynamic back to just 35 yards on 18 carries in the Pats' 30-14 win over the Jets on Sep. 22.
"They're disciplined. I think Coach Belichick does a great job of getting his guys in position to make plays," Bell said. "And he's got all types of personnel packages, and he can put different versatile guys in different areas to try and confuse the offense a little bit. I think they tackle well, they've got a good corner (Stephon Gilmore), and they do all of the little things right. That's what it really takes for a great defense and that's what those guys have been playing throughout this whole season… so there's a lot to prepare for. We just have to go out there and make plays when plays present themselves."
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If the Jets can continue to make plays in the passing game with Sam Darnold behind center, opposition linebackers are going to have to pick their poison. Darnold benefited from Bell last week as the Jets dissected the Cowboys across the middle of the field and off of play-action. Known for his patience running style, Bell has maintained his smile at One Jets Drive and kept his teammates up during turbulent waters.
"He's been a guy that he's great during games, he's unbelievable during practice," Gase said. "His work ethic is outstanding. He's probably one of the most positive, energetic guys we have in this building. He's the one talking, 'We're close, we just have to keep working. Keep working.' He's setting the right example for everybody else."
The Patriots do everything well defensively including stopping the run (73.7 Yds/G). They have a formidable group of linebackers who will pay a lot of attention to Bell, but the Jets' star is embracing the chance to match up with the best.
"I just feel like each and every game I have to put everything on the line and play hard," he said. "It's going to be a fun game and I think we have a really great opportunity to shock the world in a sense. It's going to be fun."