Ignore the individual statistics. Forget about the underwhelming (for him) numbers. When Le’Veon Bell looks at what he’s putting on film, he’s impressed.
“This is some of the best football I’ve ever played,” the star running back said Friday as he and the Jets prepared to face the Bengals on Sunday. “I don’t care what the stats say.”
Considering he has yet to rush for more than 70 yards in a game this season and has no game with more than a single touchdown, it may seem like Bell was still recovering from a tryptophan hangover. This is a player who has been selected to three Pro Bowls and run for at least 1,200 yards in three different seasons, yet is averaging 51 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry this year. But Bell believes that over the past few weeks he has been playing his best football. That means blocking, that means receiving, that means rushing. It means breaking tackles and creating extra yards when there is nothing there.
“Any time they call upon me, I make a play,” he said. “So this is some of the best football I’ve played in my career.”
Pro Football Focus agrees with him somewhat, giving Bell an 85.0 grade for his performance against the Raiders on Sunday, the highest of any running back in the league. Bell performed very well in that game, rushing for 49 yards on 12 carries and catching five passes for 59 yards. His 108 total yards was his third-highest total of the season. He also produced those numbers in just three quarters, resting for the final quarter for the second straight week after the game had gotten out of hand.
“And that’s a good problem to have,” he said. “The fact that we’re [winning], that’s all that matters to me.”
The past two games, the Jets have begun to use Bell as more of a receiver, instead of just a check-down option out of the backfield. He averaged 11.8 yards per catch against the Raiders, one week after catching two passes for 33 yards against the Redskins. Coach Adam Gase has split him out wide as a receiver, finally taking advantage of his versatility.
“I love that. That’s something we kind of envisioned at the beginning of the season,” Bell said. “But we had to work through the season, guys in and out of the huddle. Now, we’re in more of a flow. He’s able to move me around a little more because he knows I have a better understanding of the offense and I’ve been putting good football on tape. He’s been trying to find different ways to utilize me besides just in the run game.”
Bell is most pleased by the team’s overall performance and the three consecutive wins. During the Jets’ 1-7 start, Bell stayed positive, talking about how close he believed the offense was to breaking out. He admitted his first season with the Jets was disappointing, but also stressed how quickly things can change. Lately, he has proven to be a soothsayer, even if his own gaudy statistics have yet to follow.
“Guys are kind of jelling and as a group you get more confidence as that’s happening, as you continue to score points and you’re stopping guys,” Bell said. “Everything [the coaches are calling] you feel like is working. That’s because guys are on details, doing what they’re asked to do at the time they are asked to do it.
“It’s been good around here the last couple of weeks. We just got to continue to make it better.”
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