As the Jets hope for young players to emerge as long-term building blocks in 2017, one of the few guys proving he might be capable of being that has been Brandon Shell.
Shell beat out the richly re-signed Ben Ijalana and Brent Qvale, who had a decent preseason, to earn the starting job on the right side. After a strong finish to 2017, Shell had some success to build on going into 2017 and I thought he had a good start in Buffalo. Here are a few examples.
(Shell is at right tackle, #72)
9:22 2nd quarter: Here Shell goes one on one with Lorenzo Alexander, who had 12.5 sacks in his first season as a Bill last year. Shell stays balanced and while Alexander gets a quick first step, Shell is able to effortlessly plow him out of the way to deny the pressure and give Josh McCown a clean pocket to pick up this first down. On this play in particular McCown seems completely oblivious to the rush and locked on to Jermaine Kearse for at least 2 full seconds before the throw, so if Shell was beat here it would have been an easy sack.
I’d also like to point out that Shell handled these outside rushes with ease throughout the entire game. He didn’t get beat with speed often, if at all.
6:52, 3rd quarter: Here Shell does a tremendous job taking Kyle Williams out of the play to clear a hole for one of Matt Forte’s only effective runs of the game. This is an encouraging play, since as you’ll see later Shell can struggle in the run game and with straight power blocking in general. He didn’t here.
10:21, 4th quarter: This is another encouraging play from Shell in the run game. Here he quickly sets himself and uses his arms to stand up Shaq Lawson and keep him removed from the play completely.
It wasn’t all great for Shell though. As I mentioned, while he seems to do a very solid job handling edge rushers and working side to side, he can get overpowered head-on. This is where he mainly needs to improve. Here are a couple examples of that.
13:36, 3rd quarter: This is a screen pass, but a good example of where Shell could get better. You saw Shell seal Kyle Williams out of one of the plays above, but before that happened Williams had a dominating move of his own. He just demolishes Shell here and is able to easily get into the backfield, even though this play did end up with a first down. If this were a run however, this is the kind of play that results in 3 to 4 yard losses. Drive killers.
4:58, 4th quarter: On this play Shaq Lawson tries to go straight through Shell rather than around him. While Shell doesn’t let Lawson get to McCown, he gets pushed back right into McCown’s grill and Lawson is able to tip away the pass. Robby Anderson was wide open for a first down if this was a good throw. This play is yet another example of how a single 1-on-1 battle on the line of scrimmage is often what determines the outcome of a play, even though it’s rarely noticed and linemen will never get positive or negative statistical credit for it.
Overall I liked what I saw from Shell. He was mostly clean in pass protection and had some encouraging plays in the run game. Needing improved consistency with his power game, he’s not an elite player by any means, but is in a great spot for a second year player who was a fifth round pick last year. At the end of the year, Shell could turn out to be one of the most reliable long-term building blocks on the Jets offense going forward.