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Could Le'Veon Bell's diminished role in offense be a precursor to his Jets departure?

Jets running back Le'Veon Bell runs the ball

Jets running back Le'Veon Bell runs the ball against Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt, center, during the first half on Sunday in Cincinnati. Credit: AP/Gary Landers

Le’Veon Bell looked and sounded like a player who is frustrated with his role and tired of losing.

Bell didn’t throw his coach under the bus after he was seemingly a forgotten man in Sunday’s 22-6 loss to the Bengals, but he said plenty without saying too much.

More than once Bell said, “I’m not surprised” when asked about Adam Gase going away from the run game against the worst run defense in the NFL.

When Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets, he believed he would be a major contributor to wins, like he was for five seasons in Pittsburgh. The Jets have won just four games, and Bell hasn’t been nearly as involved in the offense as anyone expected.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Jets and Bell parted ways this offseason. The Jets explored trades for the three-time Pro Bowl running back before the trade deadline, and may do so again this offseason.

It also wouldn’t be surprising if Bell would welcome a change of scenery and play-calling.

It’s been reported that Gase wasn’t a big fan of the Bell signing. Gase favors a passing offense. He was Denver’s offensive coordinator in 2013 when the Broncos scored 606 points and Peyton Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns — all NFL records.

Gase has been unable to duplicate that in Chicago, Miami and now with the Jets. But there is a big difference — he had Manning in Denver, and the system fit one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

If Gase is the offensive genius he’s been portrayed to be — Bell used those words in training camp — he would have found a way to utilize Bell. Gase would have been able to adapt his style and system to fit the running back who not long ago was considered the best and most dangerous at his position.

“We've had some games where things have worked out well to where we have gotten him going,” Gase said. “I think the Oakland game is a good example where things were falling in the right spot for us to where the coverage was right, he was getting the ball, he kind of got rolling a little bit, he popped a few runs.

“Really that is more of what I would love to be able to do. Not every game is the same, not every team plays you the same.”

True, but the Bengals came into the game allowing 166.3 rushing yards per game. This was an opportunity for the Jets to establish a run game.

They had nine designed runs in the first half for 43 yards. Bell rushed five times for 22 yards in the half and finished with 10 carries for 32 yards.

The Jets were down 17-3 in the second quarter, so they turned to the pass. But Bell wasn’t involved much there either — he had just 14 touches overall, including nine after the first quarter.

Bell had a great run for 23 yards on third down in the third quarter that was erased because of a holding penalty. He touched the ball four times after that.

Certainly, the ineffectiveness of the offensive line has played a part in Bell’s huge drop in production from his Steelers days. He also seems to have slowed a step after sitting out last season over a contract dispute.

But his usage — or lack thereof — in the Bengals game was the latest indication that Gase and Bell aren’t a good fit.

“I think Le’Veon is really doing everything he can to just keep us in manageable situations on third down,” Gase said. “I thought that third-down run was a good example of if we can get him to that second level what it can look like. We just haven’t done that enough.

“Hopefully in these last few games, we can pop him free and get him to that second level.”

Four games are all that are left in the season, and perhaps in Bell’s career as a Jet.

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