Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
Coming out of South Carolina, Brandon Shell's size and athleticism stood out, but he also impressed with his technique in pass-protection and his discipline. He posted outstanding pass-protection numbers against some good teams and when matched up with pro prospects. That bodes well for his ability to be successful at the NFL level, although he's not the type of tackle you'd typically leave out on an island.
Preseason Stats: Four games, one start, one sack surrendered.
Regular Season Stats: 10 offensive snaps in the first 13 games, started the last three games, one penalty, no sacks surrendered.
Projected Role: Potential starting right tackle.
When Shell dropped into the fifth round of last year's draft, the Jets traded a 2017 fourth-round pick so they had the ammunition to select him. That investment seems to have been a good one.
After looking good in the first three preseason games, Shell struggled in the last game -- his only start of the preseason. He still made the final roster, although he rode the bench for most of the year.
However, when Breno Giacomini and Brent Qvale were both unavailable for week 15, he received his first NFL start and held up well enough to retain the job over the last two weeks even though Qvale returned.
According to Pro Football Focus, Shell didn't surrender a single pressure in those three starts but this was partly because their gameplans made his life easier. He also had mixed results in the running game.
Looking back at his film from those last three games, Shell was half-beaten several times, but did a good job of battling to avoid surrendering any clean pressure. He was able to use his strength to either push the pass rusher upfield at the last moment or hold up long enough to enable the quarterback to step into the pocket.
His first start saw him thrown into the fire against Cameron Wake, who posted a sack, an interception, a forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. However, none of that was directly attributable to Shell, as Wake did his damage on stunts or coming unblocked off the edge due to an incorrectly-set protection.
In the preseason, Shell initially held up in similar fashion, before cracks started to appear. In the third game against the Giants, he gave up his first couple of pressures right at the end of the game, possibly because he was gassed. However, in the final game, he had his hands full throughout with Eagles reserve Stephen Means and struggled to hold up against an outside speed rush or a bull-rush.
Interestingly, he played at left tackle in the preseason. He had also played left tackle in his senior year at South Carolina, although he had implied he was more comfortable on the right side.
In the running game, Shell was able to make some impact blocks, but often allowed his man to get off the block to get in on the tackle. He whiffed badly on a play where the Jets were stuffed on fourth and short in the season finale, for example. Hopefully he can learn to improve how he uses his hands and sustain blocks more effectively next year. He has a useful sounding board to discuss refining his techniques with because he's very close to his uncle, hall of fame lineman and former NFL head coach Art Shell.
The Jets initially seemed like they were content to have Shell hold onto that right tackle position in 2016, as they re-signed Ben Ijalana, who had finished up the season as the starting left tackle. However, a few days later, they also agreed to a contract with veteran Kelvin Beachum.
Head coach Todd Bowles initially suggested that Ijalana would remain at left tackle while the higher-paid Beachum would compete with Shell at right tackle. However, in offseason practices, Beachum -- who started 16 games at left tackle with Jacksonville last year -- was working at left tackle as had been expected. Beachum missed some time with a sore knee, though -- a problem that could potentially linger all year.
That might present Shell with his big chance, assuming he doesn't beat out Ijalana and earn the role outright. Hopefully he can play as consistently as he did last year once he gets his shot.
Outlook: Shell's performance down the stretch was certainly encouraging, but the Jets are apparently not about to hand him a starting role. If he can beat out Ijalana or Beachum to earn a starting role, that's a good sign he has a future in this league. Even if he doesn't, each of them have had injury concerns in the past, so there should be opportunities to get on the field and build on his contributions at the end of last year.