Le’Veon Bell has professed to regain his old form this season due to an intensive and extensive offseason program.
He also has mended his alleged feud with head coach Adam Gase, and will be an integral part of the Jets’ offense.
Then there’s quarterback Sam Darnold. Can he stay in the pocket long enough to lite the fuse to a potentially potent offense? Darnold was the victim of 33 of the team’s 52 sacks last year.
The big question is how will Bell do it? It will come down to the Jets’ offensive line.
It was one of the major tasks of GM Joe Douglas in the offseason and in the draft. Douglas has revamped the front line in both situations, and he is confident the unit can jell to create enough holes for Bell and enough time for Darnold.
Douglas did secure the center position when he inked former Bronco Conner McGovern to a three-year, 27 million deal, $18 million guaranteed. McGovern started at right guard in 2018 and then slid over to center late in the season. He did start all 16 games last season.
The Jets released veteran right guard Brian Winters at the beginning of August, and they saved $7million in cap space. Former Panther and free agent Greg Van Roten will get the nod there. Veteran Alex Lewis, who was acquired from Baltimore last season, brought stability at left guard.
The tackle situation will be one to watch.
Former Seahawk massive George Fant signed a three-year, $30 million pact, but his career since 2016 has been marred with injuries and inconsistency. Fant looms as the likely starter at right tackles, while top pick Mekhi Becton, another massive block, apparently will begin the year at left tackle, an untested commodity for quarterback Sam Darnold.
Jonotthan Harrison took over at center and struggled after Ryan Khalil never returned to form from his un-retirement, and Chuma Edoga, a third-round pick, played guard and tackle. Both are the team’s most experienced depth. Cameron Clark, a fourth-round pick this April, is highly regarded at guard, and undrafted free agent Jared Hilbers can provide depth at tackle. Douglas has stockpiled free agents for backup roles.
McGovern, Van Roten, Lewis, Fant, and Becton. On paper, it doesn’t overly excite anyone, There are questions surrounding each one of them, some obviously more than others.
Another key topic will be chemistry. Faced with the pandemic, the unit also will be faced with meshing together in an unorthodox landscape. The often-criticized preseason games would have greatly helped.
In their defense, the line can have the makings of an upgrade over the 2019 version.
Bell has the ability to create, and this version can turn him back into the previous Pittsburgh gamebreaker.
Darnold has had his receiving core padded, and he must have the time to unleash their talents.
Both can take the Jets to the next level if the offensive line can help them take the first step.