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Le’Veon Bell Could Thrive Behind New Offensive Line After Disappointing 2019

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Le'Veon Bell

Last season, the New York Jets averaged 1.21 points and 23.1 yards per drive, both of which were the worst marks in the entire NFL. While Sam Darnold’s early season mono diagnosis didn’t help, the offensive line was essentially a revolving door. Looking ahead to 2020, that has to change in order for the Jets to find success. 

Le’Veon Bell’s first year in New York didn’t go as planned. He averaged a career-worst 3.2 yards per carry and put up 789 rushing yards, finding pay dirt just three times in 15 games. While rumors swirled about his health and lack of burst, he simply stood no chance behind that o-line. 

Per Football Outsiders, the line ranked 31st in running back yards, 27th in stuffed percentage, 30th in second-level yards and 32nd in open field yards. Quite possibly the most damning stat was that Bell saw eight-plus defenders in the box just 17.14% of the time and was the second-least efficient rusher out of the 48 backs in the league that saw 86-plus carries. In other words, opposing defenses knew they could stop the run without devoting additional bodies towards the line of scrimmage. 

Jets running backs averaged 1.4 yards before contact per rush attempt (32nd) and 1.9 yards after contact per rush attempt (23rd), which indicates just how difficult it was for Bell to find the same consistent running lanes he had in Pittsburgh. DraftKings is listing Bell’s 2020 NFL over / under for rushing yards at 850.5, so a slight improvement in that regard is expected. 

However, is a 1,000-plus rushing yard season out of the question for Bell, who is also very active in the passing game? The short answer is: no, not really. 

General Manager Joe Douglas addressed this pain point in the 2020 NFL Draft, selecting left tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick and tackle Cameron Clark in the 4th Round. He also went out and signed Connor McGovern (15th-best left guard per Pro Football Focus), Greg Van Roten (10th-best center per PFF) and George Fant in free agency to nearly completely overhaul the unit. Guard Alex Lewis and right tackle Chuma Edoga are the only returning players who could realistically earn a starting role. The Jets tried to find as much offensive line help as they could this offseason by targeting the consensus picks for the best offensive linemen available. It makes sense that Joe Douglas is trying to protect his investment at quarterback and running back but will it pay off this season? 

After last year’s disastrous offensive year, it seems like Bell and company will have a blank slate to make more of an impact in the running game this season. That’s just what this offense needs in order to guide Darnold to the next dimension of his progression. 

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