The 27-year-old Bell should return to action with a bellcow workload for the Jets, but there are a couple of red flags. New HC Adam Gase tends to use multiple backs, but he did have a pair of backs with 240+ carries (Knowshon Moreno in 2013 and Jay Ajay in 2016) in his six seasons as an offensive coordinator or head coach. Also, Gase reportedly did not want to sign Bell to a big contract, and Jets GM Mike Maccagnan was fired after the Draft in May. For what it’s worth, Gase seems to have put his feelings about the signing behind him saying, "Everybody can criticize the contract all you want, but he's here. When you get a chance to coach a great player, I'm excited for that opportunity." The final issue is the quality of the Jets’ offensive line, which was last in the league in Adjusted Line Yards (per Football Outsiders). Since Bell can also generate points as a receiver, this is less of a concern that it would be with more run-oriented backs.
LeVeon Bell finally got a day off from drug testing Sunday.
But the Jets’ new running back still missed time during practice because of leg cramps. He was more involved in the offense during team drills, though after one run he delivered a brief scare, hobbling off to the sideline to be looked at by trainers. He came back and later took more reps in seven-on-seven, before running into the issue again.
Coach Adam Gase said he was not concerned about Bell’s health and didn’t think it would be something he’d need to monitor.
It sounds like the team believes it was all just leg cramps, and head coach Adam Gase said the team is emphasizing hydration, especially in the beginning of camp.
Through four training camp practices, it has been clear that Gase likes the idea of mixing and matching his backs while using them in various ways. There could be multiple ballcarriers lined up at different spots on a given play, presenting a big-time challenge for opposing defenses.
Bell will be the primary ball carrier, obviously, but it seems like the rest could also be involved in all aspects of the offense. The team likely can't keep all five backs listed above, and there have been stories that McGuire and Cannon could be on the roster bubble. Right now, the Jets are taking it easy with Bell and likely making sure to get a good look at the rest of the backfield.
Jamison Crowder had an impressive spring. He is extremely quick and looked fully healthy. The combination of Crowder, LeVeon Bell and Chris Herndon should give Darnold plenty of options in the middle of the field and create headaches for opposing defenses. Adam Gase will create mismatches with Crowder and if he can get a linebacker on him, watch out.
Crowder returned punts in Washington and he could get a look in that unsettled role with the Jets, but they are clearly more interested in him as their starting slot receiver.
In efforts to keep the edge that got him this far, James Conner will enter his third season with the hunger of a rookie looking for a job.
"You've got to earn it every day," he said in late December when asked if he's the tailback of the Steelers' future. "It's never enough when you think you've done enough. That's when you start to get on the decline. ... You've got to earn it every day, practice hard and show you belong. I definitely don't feel like I've done enough yet."
The story said that's exactly what the Steelers like to hear, but Conner is selling himself a bit short. From teammates up to ownership, the Steelers have praised Conner's development in a sophomore season that included 973 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs and an AFC Offensive Player of the Month award. Conner added 55 catches for 497 yards in a Steelers offense that relied heavily on the back for easy yardage off dump-offs. The story added Conner struggled with conditioning and blitz pickups as a rookie but was more than ready when he showed up for his second training camp. Of course, it's expected Bell will not be back with the Steelers in 2019, so as of now, Conner seems set to be the team's RB1 heading into 2019.