When Le’Veon Bell signed with the Jets in March, expectations for the team’s ground game soared exponentially.
But an 0-4 start and the second-fewest rushing yards in the entire NFL later, coach Adam Gase is back to the drawing board on how to get the most out of his pool of running backs.
“It’s probably been the hardest thing for us,” Gase said before practice Thursday. “We’re trying to figure out the right way to use Le’Veon, the right way to use Ty [Montgomery], the right way to use Bilal [Powell]. It has not been easy.”
Bell — who signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract after holding out from the Steelers for the entire 2018 season — leads the Jets with 206 of their 264 total rushing yards on 71 attempts this season. To put it in perspective, the Cowboys, the Jets’ opponent Sunday, have 704 rushing yards through five games.
Bell has averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and hasn’t had opportunities to impact the offense as much as expected. That could be due to the fact the Jets were playing behind third-string quarterback Luke Falk for most of the last three games and defenses were able to stack the box.
But Powell — the longest tenured Jet on the roster — and offseason signee Montgomery haven’t seen many opportunities, combining for 10 rushing attempts in four games.
“We haven’t had enough plays, which that hurts when you got a running back that it’s hard to take him out of the game,” Gase said. “We’re trying to get those guys more and more involved. Last week, we did not want [the Eagles] to be in nickel [defense], which as soon as we put one of those other guys out there, teams are going to play nickel against us.”
The Jets could see one of their recent draft picks on the opposite sideline Sunday. Devin Smith, the wide receiver drafted in the second round by the Jets in 2015, has revived his career with Dallas.
Smith played just 14 games for the Jets in 2015-16 as he dealt with several injuries. He was out of football for two years and then signed with the Cowboys this offseason. He won a spot on the roster with a strong training camp and has five catches for 113 yards and one touchdown.
“Devin’s done a really nice job,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said this week. “He had a really good training camp and a really good preseason with us and deserved to make our team. Early on in the season he got some different opportunities and he really took advantage of them. He’s made some plays for us.”
Smith was inactive against the Packers last week, so there is no guarantee he will face his old team.
RB Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle), TE Chris Herndon (hamstring), LG Osemele Kelechi (shoulder/knee), LB CJ Mosley (groin), DL Henry Anderson (shoulder) didn’t practice Thursday.