FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Le’Veon Bell has been running into the equivalent of midtown Manhattan gridlock. He generally hasn’t been getting very far very fast.
After averaging 4.3 yards per carry in five seasons with Pittsburgh before last year’s contract dispute — twice reaching 4.9 and once 4.7 — the Jets’ new top running back has managed to rush for just 3.0 yards per carry and only 256 yards in the team's 1-4 start.
Coach Adam Gase said last week that teams have been putting an extra guy in the box to try to take Bell out of the equation. That made sense with quarterback Sam Darnold sidelined for three games with mono. Darnold returned and revitalized the passing game last Sunday, helping power an upset win over Dallas. Bell, however, averaged just 3.6 yards and a total of 50 via 14 carries.
Yet the three-time Pro Bowl back’s attitude hasn’t been shaken despite some sub-par line play and/or closed holes.
“He’s probably one of the most positive, energetic guys we have in this building,” Gase said before practice Friday. “He’s the one talking, ‘We’re close. We’ve just got to keep working, keep working.’ So he’s setting the right example for everybody else.”
So why hasn’t he gotten frustrated?
“Because it’s football, and I understand we’re getting better,” Bell said. “I can sense it.”
He said he started sensing it in the second half of the Dallas game when he began to see some holes open. Bell had a season-best 13-yard run in the third quarter.
His next opportunity comes Monday night against New England at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots are 6-0, including a 30-14 win over the Jets, and feature the NFL’s top-ranked defense and third-ranked run defense. The Jets' offensive line also has some injury questions.
But Darnold’s passing could open up room for Bell to run as the Jets move forward, and vice versa.
“I think me running the ball well and Sam throwing the ball well, we offset each other,” Bell said. “Obviously, it all starts with the guys up front. As long as those guys handle the defensive front, I think we’ll have great success passing the ball and running the ball.”
Notes & quotes: Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), who missed the last four games, practiced on a limited basis. Gase said he would be doing some team drills after exclusively doing individual drills Thursday. Mosley has said he’s playing. “I heard,” Gase said. “I love the fact that he’s ready to go.” Mosley calls the defensive signals. “He’s the quarterback of the defense,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. ". . . You felt his presence in practice. He just gets the play calls out quickly. He sets the front.” . . . Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (ankle) and left guard Alex Lewis (neck) didn’t practice. Center Ryan Kalil, who hurt his shoulder Thursday, did limited work. Tight end Chris Herndon (hamstring) didn’t practice. Neither did inside linebacker Neville Hewitt (neck/knee).