According to NFL.com analyst (and former NFL star running back) Maurice Jones-Drew, the Indianapolis Colts are among his six NFL landing spots for recently released New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell:
2020 · 3-2
The injury-riddled Colts have already lost a number of offensive playmakers this season, including Marlon Mack, Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. (who could return soon). Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor is holding is own since becoming the starter — though he has just one 100-yard rushing game — but Philip Rivers is struggling mightily. Through five games, he’s tossed just four TD passes (none of which have been to WR1 T.Y. Hilton) against five interceptions. Oof! Signing Bell won’t solve all the Colts’ problems, but Rivers needs help. Bell is the perfect back to use on screens and bootlegs, and hey, he can line up outside and run routes if needed. He’s a matchup problem, one the Colts should highly consider adding before their offensive issues take them out of playoff contention.
The former superstar running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers never really found his footing in the bright lights of New York after signing a 4-year, $52.5 million deal ahead of the 2019 season. He frequently clashed with Jets head coach Adam Gase, who presumably never wanted to sign Bell in the first place, as it was a move made by former GM Mike Maccagnan—then fired two months after the signing.
Last season, Bell rushed for 789 rushing yards on 245 carries (3.2 ypc. avg) and 3 rushing touchdowns during 15 starts—while also amassing 461 receiving yards on 66 receptions (7.0 ypr. avg.) and a touchdown reception.
In two starts in 2020—having dealt with a hamstring injury, Bell had 19 carries for 74 rushing yards (3.9 ypc. avg.) and 3 receptions for 39 receiving yards
The former 2x First-Team NFL All-Pro and 3x Pro Bowler theoretically still has some productive football left in his tires in the right offensive system, but the big bodied, 6’0”, 225 pound former Steelers’ bellcow now has lingering concerns with his overall conditioning and commitment to pro football with his next team.
At age 28 years old and with some heavy NFL mileage—having had 1,493 career carries and 6,199 rushing yards respectively, it would hardly be shocking if Bell’s best days running the football are clearly behind him. However, Bell did sit out the entire 2018 season for contract leverage, which mitigates some of his high usage earlier in his career.
When healthy and going right, Bell is a bruising back with surprisingly quick feet, elusiveness, and a rare ability to catch the football both out of the backfield and lined up as a wide receiver.
The Colts did lose starting running back Marlon Mack to a season-ending torn Achilles, and their running game is averaging a league 31st worst 3.6 yards per carry average in 2020.
That being said, with 2nd round pick Jonathan Taylor showing initial promise, yet still adjusting to the position and speed at the NFL level, elusive scat-back Nyheim Hines, and effective change-of-pace back Jordan Wilkins in the fold, the Colts backfield still remains crowded.
While the run blocking was better last weekend in Sunday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, Taylor had just 12 carries, Hines 3 carries, and Wilkins 1 carry—meaning the offense already needs to give their current backs more carries, not less.
Bell’s addition would mean less carries for Taylor between the tackles and less pass usage for Hines, both of whom are two young promising backs that could use the extra work and additional playing experience.
Bell might make more sense for a contending team with greater veteran leadership for the season’s stretch run, but with their offense currently in flux, I’m just not so sure that team is the Colts right now.