Bell, who pulled his left hamstring in Week 1, was activated from injured reserve Saturday. He returned to practice this week.
The winless Jets (0-4) hope Bell can spark a struggling offense that ranks 31st in scoring and 31st in total yards.
It will be interesting to see how coach Adam Gase divides the work against the Arizona Cardinals (2-2). In Bell’s absence, he leaned heavily on Frank Gore, who got 49 of the 64 running back carries. The 37-year-old Gore was ineffective, rushing for only 150 yards — a 3.1 average.
“I think he can be pretty effective,” Gase said of Bell. “He did a good job of getting healthy and then staying in good shape. [He] did a good job making sure that he maintained where his weight was. … I think he feels even better now than he did when we kind of hit that first game.”
Bell didn’t show much in brief action. After predicting a career year in training camp, he carried six times for 14 yards in the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. He injured his hamstring late in the first half but tried to play in the third quarter, perhaps making it worse.
Afterward, Gase said he was “mad” at himself for sending Bell back in the game.
The running game has been a major disappointment. The Jets are averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but that number is deceiving because 46 yards came on a touchdown scramble by Darnold — by far their longest run of the season.
Flacco, 35, who is replacing the injured Darnold (sprained right shoulder), will make his Jets starting debut. He played four snaps last week after Darnold left briefly to get his shoulder examined in the locker room. It will be Flacco’s first start since last Oct. 27, when he played for the Denver Broncos.
The Jets also elevated quarterback Mike White and cornerback Lamar Jackson from the practice squad. White will be the backup quarterback on Sunday. They Jets did not activate linebacker Blake Cashman, defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga and wide receiver Vyncint Smith off IR. All three players were designated to return this week. That the Jets didn’t put Darnold on IR likely means they expect him back in less than three weeks.