A couple weeks ago, Jets running back coach Anthony Lynn called fullback John Conner aside and asked him what player on the second-string defense caused the most headaches for him. Conner is a quiet, thoughtful player but he didn’t have to mull the decision long.
Conner looked Lynn straight in the eyes and told him, “Nick Bellore.” It was at that moment that Bellore, a second-team inside linebacker, was destined for a position switch.
“He has good pad level; he’s a good athlete. I just saw something in him I guess. He’s a tough kid, he comes downhill pretty good,” Conner told Metro. “As a fullback, you see things in a linebacker that makes you think he could be a good player on this side.”
There is a bit of irony to the situation that both Bellore and Conner recognize. After all, it was Bellore’s tenacious style on defense that earned a promotion of sorts to play on offense. He did play some tailback in high school, but was never on offense during his career at Central Michigan.
Bellore didn’t play any fullback on Sunday night in the Jets’ 17-12 loss to the Panthers. Bellore practiced with the linebackers on Tuesday and did not see any reps with the offense. When asked where he will play on Thursday, Bellore told Metro, “I don’t know but I’m open to playing on either side of the ball.”
An undrafted free agent a season ago, Bellore played in all 16 games, primarily on special teams and registered 19 tackles. On Thursday night, he could be trying to pick up blitzes for the first time in his career.
“Rex kind of asked me and of course I wanted to try it. Something new, something for me to learn and to add some depth at the spot,” Bellore said. “If they want me to play the spot, I will. And it helps me play middle linebacker too because of what I’m learning over here.”
That “over here” of course is the offensive side of the ball and it has been a long.
Last week represented what Bellore called a “crash course” in playing fullback. He didn’t take any defensive reps, focusing solely on offense. In terms of actual snaps in practice, Bellore estimates he got “10 to 12 reps” each day of practice with the second team fullbacks. Meetings have been intense to get him caught up to playing on the offensive side of the ball. He credits Conner for helping to get him on track.
What Conner saw in Bellore was a tough, aggressive player who was quick to adapt on the field. Interestingly enough though, Bellore’s transition to offense comes with a defender’s mentality. Conner raves about how quickly Bellore is picking things up.
“You have to be more controlled than at linebacker. Those guys are able to step around you so you have to be more controlled. It’s more of a cerebral game on that side of the ball in terms of knowing your play, knowing your assignment and how you need to respond as a fullback,” Bellore said. “But I recognize some things from my time at defense when I line up here now, so I think that is helping the learning process that my experience at linebacker is carrying over to fullback as well.”
There haven’t been any discussions with Bellore on where he will play moving forward. The switch to offense for the past week isn’t an indictment on his play at middle linebacker rather it was pitched to him as a new challenge and a new opportunity.
“I’m still a reserve linebacker,” Bellore said. “I’m really comfortable with playing either one. I’m limited in what I know of the playbook on offense but I know defense and what is expected there. I’m just taking it one game at a time.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.