Le'Veon Bell is used to being a workhorse running back. During his five seasons with the Steelers, Bell averaged nearly 25 touches per game while becoming one of the most versatile running backs in the NFL. Bell's success didn't come without a cost, however, as Bell sustained three significant lower body injuries during his time in Pittsburgh.
While Bell's workload was lower in 2019 -- his first season with the Jets -- than it was in Pittsburgh, New York head coach Adam Gase said that the plan is to further limit Bell's touches in 2020. Last season, Bell averaged 21 touches per game for the Jets, who overcame a slow start to finish the season with a 7-9 record.
"I do think we have some guys that can help maybe lessen the load on [Bell] to where it's not all on him," Gase said during an appearance on ESPN's "Flight Deck" podcast. "Hopefully, we can get some of the younger backs to where we can make a good one-two punch to where we can really excel instead of feeling like it's just all on him all the time."
Gase's comments were made just before Frank Gore, the NFL's third all-time career rushing leader. The addition of Gore, who rushed for 599 yards and two touchdowns for the Bills last season, will certainly help disperse the workload as it relates to the Jets' backfield for the 2020 season.
During the draft, the Jets spent a fourth-round pick on running back La'Mical Perine, who amassed over 3,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns during his four seasons at the University of Florida. The Jets have also added talent at receiver as well as on the offensive line. In free agency, the team acquired veteran tackle George Fant and receiver Breshad Perriman. During the draft, New York selected receiver Denzel Mims in the second round and tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round.
Gase is hoping that these additions help create more room for Bell, who rushed for a career-low 3.2 yards per carry last season. In Pittsburgh, Bell had the luxury of playing alongside quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, who helped take the attention off Bell.
"If you have the vertical threats like I think we're going to have with the wide receivers now, hey, maybe we'll start seeing two-high zone instead of them just focusing on one guy in the receiving corps," said Gase, who added that he is also looking for significant contributions from tight ends Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin in 2020. "You've got some guys who can do some different things there and stretch the field vertically. That was something Chris was really good at. Now, all of a sudden, Le'Veon is seeing lighter boxes, which he didn't see a lot last year.
"We saw loaded boxes for the most part. We didn't do a good enough job winning in the passing game to open some of that stuff up."
Despite the rumors of Bell possibly being traded, it appears that Gase is at least partially constructing the Jets' offense in order to give Bell the best chance at success. In the process, Gase is surely hoping to maximize the talents of quarterback Sam Darnold, who is entering his third season as the Jets' starting quarterback.
"We've had some really good meetings," Gase recently said of Darnold on the "Gang's All Here" podcast, via the New York Post. "The way he's talking through football situations, that's what makes this a tougher time for us because I just want to get on the field when I hear him talking like this."