The Philadelphia Stars have gotten off to a 1-3 starts after four weeks. Very few people who watched the league last season, and paid attention this offseason had Philly ranked anywhere outside the top three teams. Their roster looked stacked with talent, with the biggest losses coming on the offensive line. While the Stars loaded up on weapons, they didn’t seem to address the line at all in free agency. Instead using the draft to target linemen for the future.
Retaining all of the veterans from a championship team seemed like a great idea. After all the Stars lost in the Championship game by 3 points after being forced to play their third string quarterback, and fourth string running back. This only cemented the belief the Stars would be back at the top of the league. Names like Corey Coleman, Ryan Izzo, and Dexter Williams had Stars fans excited for the 2023 season. “It was all a dream, I used to read the USFL magazine, Case was Cooking, and Coleman was catching everything.” -Biggie Smalls if he was a USFL fan.
Turns out it was just a dream, a far off one at that. Now we are stuck in a nightmarish season in which the Stars are heading into week five with their only win coming in week one.
The Stars have done a lot more roster shuffling this season than they did last year. This coaching staff which is extremely loyal to its players historically have stuck by their guys through good games and bad. We watched last season as their faith in Case Cookus was rewarded when he led the to within 4 points of a Championship victory. This season they have shown a lot of faith yet again but the issues have grown too big to ignore and the Stars have begun making moves trying to solidify the defense, and the offensive line.
Their most recent signing actually once wore the Midnight Green of the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as several other teams colors. Bj Bello hasn’t played since 2021 when he worked under head coach Mike Vrabel, a former linebacker himself. However having declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, Bello would find himself ranked the 45th outside linebacker in the draft, and Lance Zerlein predicted he would go undrafted. Bello is a plus level athlete, but was a smaller linebacker at 220 pounds coming out. However he out up impressive numbers at the combine: 4.56 40-yard dash, with a 1.56 10-yard split, a 6.71 3 cone drill, but only 10 reps in the bench press.
Athletic Abilities Lead to Opportunities
While every scout loved Bello’s safety-like athletic abilities, it was his lack of strength that prevented him from being drafted meaning Zerlein was correct, Bello fell out of the draft and ended up signing with the Cleveland Browns as a rookie. He would make it through to final cuts before the Browns released him and brought him back on the practice squad. He would get elevated for a game a week later, but ultimately spend the rest of the season on the practice squad. He made it through to final cuts again in 2018 but this time wasn’t signed to the practice squad.
This would leave him on the open market, where he signed with Arizona’s practice squad, it was a short stay however as he was released 15 days later. This time the wait was 2 months not 2 days but it led him to a team fresh off of a Super Bowl win. The Philadelphia Eagles brought him in on the practice squad in October. He was promoted to the active roster in December and finished out the season there. He would sign a futures deal, but wind up released in June.
Four Teams in Five Months
In 2019 Bello spent time on the Eagles, Texans, Packers, and Jets. The Jets liked what they saw and kept him around for their 2020 training camp. He was let go, in final cuts of the 2020 season. This left him available to join a team that actually was the best scheme fit for him. The Chargers have used smaller, faster linebackers for years and Bello made sense in this role. He would originally join the practice squad. The Chargers however were simply doing roster gymnastics to keep him around and available. He would be called up for the three game limit playing in week 11, 12, and 14. In December the Chargers were out of chances to call him up and revert him back to the practice squad so instead they simply signed him to the active roster.
During this season Bello collected 7 tackles. After the season Bello signed with the Titans for the 2021 season. Just before the season he was placed on injured reserve and missed the entire year on IR. This left him with no momentum and headed toward free agency once again. Bello, having not yet solidified a place in the league would watch the 2022 season from the sideline with his phone just not ringing from NFL teams. With 20 career tackles, and essentially five years on the practice squad he could be done in the NFL. At 28 years old he jumps to the Stars to see if he can rebuild his interest in the NFL.
How Does Bello Fit our Defense?
He is a very similar player to Jordan Moore and Kadofi Wright the player released by the Stars. The Stars are hoping his ability to get from sideline to sideline in a hurry will aid their run defense, and more specifically their issues against running quarterbacks. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Bello operate as a designated QB spy, used to counter act the quarterback run, and force the more mobile quarterbacks to beat them with their arm. It will be interesting to see if this latest signing helps make a difference with the biggest issues the Stars face.
Personally if I was the coach tasked with aligning this defense, and I was firmly entrenched in running a 4-3 front, I am placing Bello at inside linebacker, shifting Joey Alfieri or Joel Dublanko to the strongside, and then determining who is my best option at weakside linebacker between the remaining healthy players.
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