Adam Gase had a very long offseason to watch tape and see what the Jets did wrong and what they needed to change on offense. Talk about a horror film.
“It was absolutely atrocious, everything last year,” Gase said during a Zoom call on Thursday. “All those stats were terrible.”
The Jets ranked last in total yards and yards per play. They were next to last in points, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. They were fourth from the bottom in passing yards and sacks allowed. Atrocious is a fair word.
Some of last year’s struggles stemmed from Sam Darnold missing three games after contracting mononucleosis, poor offensive line play and Le’Veon Bell not performing like the three-time Pro Bowl player he was with the Steelers.
The Jets are going into Sunday’s opener at Buffalo confident that most of those issues are behind them. They’d better hope so, as they get set to play one of the NFL’s top defenses last year.
But with Darnold and Bell in the second year of Gase’s system, and playing behind a totally overhauled offensive line, the Jets feel they’ll be far better this year. It’s hard to imagine them being worse.
“Me personally, I understand the offense so much better,” Bell said. “It’s not even close. It’s like night and day for me. Me looking at the team, guys are a lot more comfortable. Guys know their assignments. Like Sam, he knows exactly where to go, what to do, what situation to put us in. Coach Gase doesn’t necessarily have to tell him to do everything. He kind of knows it.
“Our O-line is new, those guys picked up things well during training camp. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys up front. It’s going to be fun. I think we got a good team. We got to put it all together. I think we can be special.”
Bell wants to prove he can be special again.
He said he returned to the Jets in the best shape of his life. Bell believes he’s going to be better than he ever has. That will depend on how Gase uses Bell.
Much has been made about Gase not giving Bell the ball more last season. He averaged 137.5 yards per scrimmage over his final four seasons in Pittsburgh and scored 34 touchdowns. Last year with the Jets, Bell averaged 83.3 yards with four total TDs.
Gase has said he will utilize Bell’s pass-catching ability more this year, which was something else he was able to glean from reviewing last season. But he said the biggest thing was seeing how much the players grew toward the end of last year, and that growth has continued through the abridged training camp.
“Their knowledge now compared to what it was when we were playing last year, especially the beginning of the year, it’s so much different,” Gase said. “That’s part of the growth.”
The Jets are expecting that growth to continue, especially now that they’re finally playing games. There was no preseason due to COVID-19. The pandemic also cancelled OTAs and mini-camp. Everything was virtual until a month ago.
In that time, the Jets were impressed with how 6-7, 370-pound rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton carried himself. Bell believes the Jets have a special player in their midst.
“I’ve never seen somebody like that in person,” Bell said. “Seeing him work every day he’s a guy that understands football, too. He’s not a big guy who just tries to lean on you or tries to use their weight. He’s got good feet, good hands, good hand-eye coordination. He’s a smart player and he gets it. If he makes a mistake, he gets upset about it. He’s a competitor.
“I’m sure he’s been a guy that was highly recruited, always been bigger than everybody and he’s not a guy who accepts what people give him. He wants to go out there and take everything. That’s what you want, especially in an offensive lineman. He can be a real, real, real special player. He got all the gifts to do it. He wants to do it. That’s the biggest thing.”