Many fans of the Seattle Seahawks were hoping that the team would make a big splash in free agency by signing one of the top right tackles available in Jack Conklin or Bryan Bulaga. Failing that, many thought thought the team might retain George Fant to man the position for the next season or two until Duane Brown retires. However, as they often do, Pete Carroll and John Schneider surprised most everyone by adding a name most fans had never hear of, former New York Jets right tackle Brandon Shell.
The signing certainly appears to spell the end of Germain Ifedi’s time at right tackle for the Hawks, something that will bring joy to many fans. Before the celebrations start, however, a comparison of the two finds some interesting similarities. For starters, here are the physical and athletic profiles for the two side by side.
Physical and athletic comparisons of Germain Ifedi and Brandon Shell
So, they aren’t twins, but they are far more similar to one another than they are different. Thus, moving on to their performance, focusing in on 2019 it is seen that Shell allowed fewer pressures than Ifedi, 42 versus 52. However, there are a couple of factors that lead to this difference. First, Ifedi logged over 700 pass blocking snaps in playing all 18 games games for Seattle, while Shell was on the field for just over 500 pass blocking snaps in the 14 games. Comparing the pressure allowed for each of them by rate, the result is the following:
- Ifedi: 6.99%
- Shell: 8.32%
From there, it’s also possible to evaluate how each did given different environments of performance. As has been shown multiple times previously, pressure rates and offensive line performance are highly dependent on the quarterback. This makes things interesting, as the Jets used three different quarterbacks on the season, allowing for an interesting comparison. First, Trevor Siemian only played 18 snaps in 2019, many of which were running plays so his extremely small sample can be ignored. From there, it’s then possible to evaluate Shell from a perspective of how he performed in games where he was protecting Luke Falk versus how he performed protecting Sam Darnold.
The reason this analysis is intriguing is that Falk had a time to throw that was significantly quicker than that of Darnold, while Darnold had a time to throw very similar to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. That allows for a very rough approximation of what to expect from Shell when he is tasked with protecting Wilson. Breaking Shell’s starts out into the starts where he was protective Darnold and the starts where he wasn’t protecting Darnold yields the following:
- Darnold starts: 34 pressures in 12 games (2.83 per game)
- Non-Darnold starts: 8 pressures in 2 games (4.0 per game)
With a sample size of two games and just 114 snaps in non-Darnold starts, this obviously carries very little weight due to small sample concerns. That said, a small sample doesn’t mean that the analysis is inaccurate, it simply means that the analysis is less likely to be accurate. The analysis does, however, act as a reminder that the pressures Shell allows in 2020 might be expected to be higher than in 2019 simply because he would be tasked with protecting the quarterback for longer.
Small sample caveats in mind, it’s also possible to then evaluate the two players against common opponents. Both Shell and Ifedi faced four common opponents over the course of the 2019 season in the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are the metrics for each player in those common games playing the same position against the same opponents:
- Ifedi: 11 pressures allowed on 165 snaps
- Shell: 14 pressures allowed on 162 snaps
That difference on a rather small sample size is nothing to get worked up about. As such, it appears as though the right tackle the Seahawks have signed to replace Ifedi may simply be a less expensive, older version of Ifedi. As is nearly always the case, it’s almost universally better to pay less to get the same thing, and it appears that in this case that is basically what the Seahawks have done in signing Shell.