The Jets’ offense actually can get worse. They might be without versatile back Le’Veon Bell for at least two games.
Bell suffered a hamstring injury late in the first half of Sunday’s season-opening 27-17 loss to the Bills. He tried to play through it, but Adam Gase pulled him early in the third quarter.
Gase said on a Monday conference call that it could be "a couple weeks," but he was reluctant to put a timetable on Bell.
"I just know what kind of shape he’s in and his work ethic and the way that he finds ways to play through injury and how he bounces back," Gase said. "I just wouldn’t be surprised if he came back quicker than anticipated.
"I don’t want to put any kind of restrictions on him, being a guy that’s been around the league for quite a few years. Some of these guys find ways to be able to play through pain and play through injuries like this. I don’t want to say a longer time and then he’s going to be like, ‘What are you putting me in a box for?’ "
Hamstring injuries are always tricky. Rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims missed all of training camp with a hamstring issue and was inactive Sunday after aggravating his other hamstring. Linebacker Avery Williamson didn’t practice or play last week because of a hamstring injury, and Gase didn’t seem optimistic that he will play this week.
Unless Bell heals quickly, the Jets will head into Sunday’s home opener against the defending NFC champion 49ers with 37-year-old Frank Gore and Josh Adams as their running backs.
Gore was the Jets’ leading rusher Sunday with 24 yards on six carries. The Jets gained only 52 yards rushing in a game they trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. Gore surely would welcome a bigger workload, especially against one of his former teams. He has shown he can be productive, but he’s not the weapon Bell is for the offense.
Rookie La’Mical Perine is out with an ankle injury, and based on what Gase said, it doesn’t sound as if he will return by Sunday. The Jets may need to bring in someone new, but they’re not going to find a free agent who can replace Bell.
It was a rough game for Sam Darnold and the offense, but Bell had some good moments.
He lined up as a wide receiver and caught a 30-yard pass down the left sideline, and he nearly contributed much more.
On the play in which he got hurt, Bell lined up to the right of Darnold on the Jets’ final drive before the half. Bell went out for a pass against AJ Klein, who had just entered the game. Bell had the linebacker beaten for what should have been a touchdown, but Klein held Bell, and he fell awkwardly and clutched his hamstring.
"We had a lot of things in yesterday’s game plan for him, a lot of different things," Gase said. "Just trying to find ways of not putting him in a box and really trying to expand his role as much as possible. When he came out of the game, when we took him out of the game, we lost a pretty good chunk of that."
Bell played the first series of the third quarter before Gase removed him from the game. He said he was angry at himself for keeping Bell in there and risking further injury
"We talked after the game," Gase said. "He knew how I felt."
Now the Jets have to get ready to bounce back without one of their best weapons and against one of the best defenses last year.
"We cannot play like we did this last game," Gase said. "We have to correct a lot of things very quickly. We have to get a lot better really fast."