Through three games, Le'Veon Bell has been as advertised for the Jets, who signed the running back in the offseason with the belief that he could bring his versatility to first-year head coach Adam Gase's offense.
One of New York's bright spots during its 0-3 start, Bell has shown up, taking 76 touches for 284 yards (3.7 average) from scrimmage and a touchdown.
Despite the offense's early struggles -- Bell's nine-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter of Sept. 8's 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills marks the unit's only time past the goal line thus far -- the all-purpose back has given the Jets hope for when second-year quarterback Sam Darnold returns from mononucleosis.
But at the same time, the Jets protect Bell from himself.
As the offense treads water with former practice squad member Luke Falk at quarterback, following backup Trevor Siemian's season-ending ankle injury, Gase oversees Bell's workload in a marathon of a 16-game campaign.
The open date in Week 4 gave the injury-ravaged Jets and Bell a chance to hit the refresh button before they resume their slate Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) from Lincoln Financial Field, but regardless of whom Gase goes with under center, he carefully monitors his running back's snap count.
"It's hard to take him off the field," Gase said of Bell. "When you kind of say like, 'Hey, we'd love to take you out this series,' it's not ideal for him. He wants to be in there. I know we're always looking -- if the play count is extremely high, then we're definitely going to have to start looking at that. Last week, we had 49 plays? It's not like it was a lot of plays."
Sept. 22's 30-14 loss to the New England Patriots provided a peak into Bell's load management and limited production.
With the Jets down 30-0 until two non-offensive touchdowns -- cornerback Arthur Maulet's third-quarter fumble recovery in the end zone and safety Jamal Adams' fourth-quarter interception return for 61 yards -- Gase gave Bell 22 touches on 18 carries and four targets (all receptions), leading to 35 rushing yards and 28 receiving yards while Falk struggled under center and the offensive line allowed five sacks.
Bell took the 2018 season off, which led to offseason questions about how the Jets should approach his workload and prevent any wear and tear throughout the 2019 campaign, but he ultimately balances the competitiveness with a team-first understanding.
"He's not a complainer," Gase said of Bell. "He's always (asking), 'Hey, what do I need to do different? How can I help?' He's always looking for the solution. He's been awesome in that aspect of just trying to help, like, 'How do we get positive plays? How do we stay ahead of the sticks? How do we get third-and-manageable? How do we stay first down, second down, first down?' He's been outstanding as far as just trying to find the solution."