Following an injury to Leonard Fournette, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed veteran running back Le’Veon Bell in mid-December. While it’s a known fact that this replacement is somewhat temporary, can Bell still carve out a role for himself with the defending champs?
From The Top
It was only a few years ago when many considered Bell to be the NFL’s best running back. He was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had his best statistical season in 2014. After only playing in 6 games through 2015, he bounced back and made two straight Pro Bowls. However, things quickly fell off from there.
To The Bottom
Bell held out in 2018 due to a contract dispute, which ultimately lasted the entire year. The Steelers let him walk in free agency, and he eventually signed with the Jets. Although Bell rushed for nearly 800 yards in 2019, he did so averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Ever since then, Bell’s production has continued to decline, and he’s struggled to get on the field.
During Sunday’s 41-17 win over the Carolina Panthers, which was also the regular season finale, Bell scored his first six points as a Buc. With Ronald Jones out, Bell was given the RB2 role behind Ke’Shawn Vaughn. He only recorded 14 yards on 3 attempts, he added a touchdown on a passing play.
On the topic of receiving, Bell seems to be turning into a third-down back, filling in the spot that Giovani Bernard left behind. The previous week against his old team (the Jets), Bell had 3 catches for 30 yards. On the ground, he only had 3 carries for 5 yards (1.7 YPC average).
The conclusion here? Throw it to Le’Veon rather than hand it off. A third-down back in any offense can be an underrated weapon, so it’s important to keep Bell on that trajectory. With Fournette returning for the Wild Card game, the rushing attack will already be much stronger than before. However, the passing attack needs to stay equally consistent. If Bell can continue his work in short-yardage situations, the Buccaneers should have no problem moving forward.
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