FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Le’Veon Bell has rushed for 557 yards more than he did last season — when he had zero — and one more than he did in 2015, when he was limited to six games because of suspension and injury.
But compared to his 2014, ’16 and ’17 seasons as a Steeler, when he never rushed for fewer than 1,250 yards, his first year with the Jets has been statistically mediocre.
Not to worry, Bell said after practice on Friday. He insisted that he never has played better overall, despite his numbers.
“The [big] games will come,” he said. “I’m not rushing it. I’m not feeling bad about myself. This is some of the best football I’ve played.”
The Jets (4-7) have won three games in a row entering Sunday against the winless Bengals, and the last two — against the Redskins and Raiders — were so lopsided Bell was not needed late.
Despite that, he noted that last weekend he surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage, his fourth time doing so this season and the second in a row.
“We can’t expect me to get 150 yards not even playing the fourth quarter, and that’s a good problem to have,” he said.
Bell, 27, sat out 2018 in a contract dispute with the Steelers, then signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Jets.
The results have been modest, but early in the season Bell labored behind a weak line, and quarterback Sam Darnold was sidelined for three games by mononucleosis.
Bell has not surpassed 70 rushing yards in any game and is averaging 3.2 per carry, with a long of 19 and three touchdowns. He has 51 receptions for 368 yards and a touchdown.
How does all that translate to playing the best football of his career?
"I feel like I’ve been running hard, I’m breaking a lot of tackles, I haven’t dropped a ball all year, I’ve been doing great in blitz pickup and pass protection,” he said. “I haven’t been making a lot of mental mistakes. Any time they call upon me, I make a play. So this is some of the best football I’ve played in my career.
“I don’t care what the stats stay. When I play football and I’m out there playing, people who watch me play understand that is some of the best football I’ve played.”
Early in the season Bell said he did not experience much rust, but he now admits he feels “way more in the flow. There haven’t been games where I really had the ball 25 or 30 times. I get the ball 12 times or 15, but a lot of times, like I said the last two weeks, I haven’t played in the fourth quarter.
“That’s a problem you want to have. That’s a good problem. I don’t think anybody would be upset with that.”
Bell takes his role in pass protection seriously.
Asked how much pride he takes in his blocking, he said, “As much pride as I do scoring touchdowns. I don’t like giving up sacks. I’m a player who each and every time I run a route or I get a carry or I get a block, I treat them all the same.
“I want to make sure I catch every pass, I want to pick up every blitz. The guy I’m on, I don’t want him touching Sam. I want to catch every ball Sam throws me.”
Notes & quotes: Seven players, including CB Daryl Roberts (calf) practiced on a limited basis and are questionable. Coach Adam Gase said that group is “looking positive” for Sunday.