Brandon Shell sat on the sideline staring straight ahead Sunday after a 24-17 loss to the Patriots.
The Jets right tackle had been beaten by New England linebacker Dont’a Hightower for a sack on the game’s final series. It was not his only miscue of the day. The second-year player from South Carolina had also given up a pressure to a blitzing cornerback on a fourth-and-1 play and was flagged on a hands-to-the-face call.
Now, he sat alone, reflecting on the game.
“I wasn’t satisfied with my play that last series,” Shell said Thursday. “I kind of felt like I let my team down. I take ownership of it, but I have to put that behind me and keep pushing and have a better week this week.”
This week, Shell gets the unenviable assignment of trying to block Jets-killer Cameron Wake. When the Jets and Dolphins played four weeks ago, Wake beat Shell for a sack and three quarterback hurries.
“Cameron Wake is a great pass rusher, a great player,” Shell said. “He has speed and power. He has it all. I’ve just got to be on top of my game playing against him. He’s one of the elite rushers in the league. When you get those guys, you’ve just got to go out there and play hard.”
Shell is learning on the job. After starting the final three games of his rookie season last year, Shell won the starting right tackle job out of training camp. He has had an up-and-down season so far.
He did a good job of blocking Raiders standout Khalil Mack, but had his struggles Sunday and against Wake last month.
A fifth-round pick in 2016, the Jets are hoping Shell can be one of the young players that is part of their core moving forward.
“He’s tough,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s getting better every week. I’m satisfied with where he is right now. He plays tough football. Every experience he learns. He’s seeing [things] for the first time, too, since this is his first year starting. We like where he is.”
Shell, who is the great nephew of Hall of Fame member Art Shell, is realistic about where he is at in his development.
“I feel like I’m playing all right,” Shell said. “I have a lot of things to work on. It’s my first go-round playing the whole season and getting in all these games. I feel like I’m still learning things.”
The 6-foot-6, 324-pounder has an intimidating look because of his size, but is one of the most soft-spoken and friendly players in the Jets’ locker room. Shell hails from Goose Creek, S.C., near Charleston. He was a four-year starter at South Carolina before the Jets traded up to draft him.
“He’s coming into himself,” said guard Brian Winters, who plays next to him every snap. “He’s really understanding the game more. He’s growing into his body and he’s growing into what he’s capable of. He’s a good player and he’s going to be a great player. He’s growing every day.”
Shell turned some heads at the end of last season when injuries forced him into the lineup. He did not look overwhelmed and showed the Jets’ decision-makers he belonged. This season, he has been in the starting lineup since the start. He has been on the field for all but one game, which he missed with a shoulder injury.
“When you get the experience, you learn a lot and I’m seeing different things this year that I didn’t see last year,” Shell said. “This is helping me become a better person and player.”