NFL Fantasy players should be rushing to put in their claims, or adjusting their starting lineups, to get Le’Veon Bell active this week. If nothing else, I guarantee that the newest Chiefs running back will carry at least one into the end zone in what will surely be a blowout victory on Sunday over the visiting Jets.
It will be just another sucker punch to the jaw of Jets fans, who are not only agonizing over the slow pace of a season trucking towards an ignominious 0-16 record, but also clenching what remains of their collective teeth from witnessing a bunch of former Jets making impactful contributions to their new clubs.
That wasn’t always the case, as Gang Green’s talent evaluators often flat out missed in their analyses when it came to roster building – even first-round picks who didn’t pan out here rarely found glory in new homes.
But that all changed with last season’s hiring of head coach Adam Gase, the human wrecking ball of football teams. Despite the false hype of a brilliant offensive mind bought by the only man who mattered (owner Christopher Johnson), Gase has a knack for diminishing talent through both his schemes and his grating personality.
Bell is now the third player from Gase’s offense last season told to look elsewhere for work, and look at what the other two have done this year:
Robby Anderson: Gase wasn’t able to unlock the wide receiver’s full arsenal beyond deep balls last season, but Anderson is no longer a one-trick pony; he has run the full route tree in Carolina this season to amass 640 yards, the league’s second highest total through Week 7. Jets general manager Joe Douglas refused to budge over what he believed was Anderson’s fair value in free agency, allowing him to sign a two-year, $20 million deal (with only $10 million guaranteed) to bolt to the Panthers.
In his stead, the Jets brought in a supposed cheaper version in speedy Breshad Perriman, who has been underwhelming with just 11 receptions for 118 yards in the four games for which he was healthy enough to suit up (as of this writing, he remains in concussion protocol). To be fair, many Jets writers, including me, also got this wrong, but maybe it was because we didn’t account enough for the Gase factor.
Kelvin Beachum: This one should bother Jets fans, since Beachum was an underrated contributor both on the field at left tackle and in the locker room during his three seasons in New York. He signed for a bargain $1.1 million to play this season in Arizona, where he moved to the right side. Even with the drafting of tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round to protect quarterback Sam Darnold’s blind side, there was no reason why the Jets couldn’t have similarly adjusted to keep Beachum in the fold.
Douglas, by many accounts at the time, overspent (3 years, $27.3 million, with $13.3 million in guaranteed) on Seattle tackle George Fant for lower quality work. For such largesse, Fant is ranked 56th with a ProFootballFocus.com pass blocking grade of 59.3 among 64 tackles with at least 200 snaps this season, while Beachum is 23rd at 75.4. And, when the two teams met in Week 5, Fant allowed a sack and six pressures while none of Beachum’s pass rushing responsibilities came within sniffing distance of elusive Arizona QB Kyler Murray in the 30-10 rout.
How can an offense that ranked 31st in 2019 devolve even further to an embarrassing dead last ranking this season in both yards and points? These backfires have played a large role.
Now that Bell will be riding shotgun in the NFL’s most explosive attack, look for him to be put in better positions to succeed as well. Gase, who was reportedly miffed when the Jets signed the former All-Pro to a rich free agent contract in the 2019 offseason, got his way after ensuring that the coupling was pockmarked by underachievement and miscommunications centered mostly on Bell’s allegations of misuse.
The latter issue is a Gase trademark, originating from his three seasons manning Miami’s sideline. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry wasn’t one of Gase’s guys either, and, at the end of a turbulent relationship, the coach with oversight on personnel matters followed through on his alleged threat to trade Landry to Cleveland – where he has averaged 1,075 yards receiving over the last two seasons.
Of course, the ultimate example of addition by subtraction (in this case, the subtraction of Gase’s influence) is quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who, after starting 34 games for Gase in Miami, found the grass and the cash significantly greener following his trade to Tennessee in 2019.
In New York, Bell looked rusty and slow, possibly due to sitting out the 2018 season due to a contract dispute with Pittsburgh. However, leaving the Jets and Gase could very well be his ticket to the rejuvenation machine. He played just 17 snaps against Denver last week, but gained 39 yards on six carries – a 6.5 yards per carry average, nearly double the 3.3 he averaged in 264 carries as a Jet – in his Chiefs indoctrination.
If all goes as planned on Sunday, Bell’s performance will have Jets fans again shaking their heads in dismay, while his fantasy owners go “Ka-ching!”
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve Lichtenstein on Twitter: @SteveLichtenst1