Count me as someone who is skeptical on New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell.
He hasn’t played football in over a year, and the last time we did see him, yes, he made the Pro Bowl and earned First-Team All-Pro honors, but he averaged just four yards per carry.
Could that mean the wheels were beginning to fall off in 2017?
Still, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Bell will return to his normal self during his first season with the Jets in 2019 after signing a four-year contract with Gang Green in free agency.
Here are three of them for the Jets’ new superstar.
3. A Fresh Start
It was blatantly obvious that Bell was not happy in Pittsburgh even before sitting out all of 2018 due to a contract dispute.
Remember: Bell also held out of training camp in 2017 and actually missed Week 1 of that season before finally returning in Week 2, so it’s not like his squabble with the Steelers began last year.
Also, Bell made it clear upon leaving that he was not all that crazy about Ben Roethlisberger, who seemed to rub a lot of teammates the wrong way in Pittsburgh.
Now, Bell is getting a fresh start with an up and coming Jets’ team and seems thrilled about it. This could be just the new beginning that Bell needs to return to the form that saw him make three Pro Bowl appearances in his first five seasons.
2. Maybe the Year Off Will Do Him Some Good?
The fact that Bell took off all of 2018 could work one of two ways. Either he’ll be rusty and won’t be able to regain his previous form, or his legs will be fresher and the year-plus of rest will work to his benefit.
It was no secret that Bell was one of the league’s biggest workhorses during his time with the Steelers, and in 2017, he led the NFL with 321 carries. So, you could look at him not playing in 2018 as a blessing, as it’s 300 less carries on his body and will allow him to be fresh for the Jets.
Keep this in mind, too: Bell played in just 12 games in 2016 and six games in 2015, so there is actually some reason to believe that the 27-year-old might have more left in the tank than most other running backs around his age.
Who would have thought that a couple of suspensions would have ended up helping Bell in the long run?
1. I Mean, He’s Le’Veon Bell
When Bell is on the field, he is one of the most lethal running backs in the league. He has already put together three 1,200-plus-yard campaigns, and he has also had three seasons where he has caught at least 75 passes.
Let’s face it: Bell is unquestionably one of the most talented halfbacks in football, right up there with Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, and Christian McCaffrey. We shouldn’t forget about that just because he didn’t play in 2018.
The Michigan State product brings so much to the table offensively, and his versatility will be a significant boon to a Jets offense that sorely needs some type of fireworks.
It would honestly be a surprise if Bell didn’t rush for at least 1,000 yards with the Jets this coming season.