COLUMBUS – Friday marked Danny Shelton's first time playing inside a stadium in front of the Dawg Pound – and with some hype surrounding him, the rookie defensive lineman's performance was one of the brightest spots of the night.
In the first half of the Orange and Brown scrimmage, Shelton twice collapsed the pocket on quarterback Johnny Manziel, once securing a two-hand-touch sack alongside rookie teammate Nate Orchard. Shelton came to the Browns with assurance he'd be a force as a run-stopper. But it's become evident the 339-pounder has tools to develop into a key pass rusher for a Browns defense in need of more firepower up front.
"Getting my hands on Johnny Manziel was huge, because he's one of those guys like a rabbit – so hard to pin down," said Shelton, who covered his face with eye-black in true gameday fashion.
But the play that even had media members murmuring in the press box happened late in the second half.
Wide receiver Marlon Moore caught a routine out-route near the sidelines and started sprinting up the field. Cornerback Justin Gilbert put his hands on Moore to slow him down. Seconds later, seemingly out of nowhere, Shelton motored into the fray, walloping Moore for the tackle.
Not many interior defensive linemen in the NFL are coming up with big hits 10 yards down the field.
"I know he's not the fastest guy but when he gets there, it packs a punch," coach Mike Pettine said. "I was just happy to see Marlon get up from that shot."
"You know, it's a mindset," Shelton said. "When you play football, you're always told never to quit. So as the years have gone by, I've grown with this game. That's just a part of me, to run to the ball."
The knock on Shelton, according to numerous NFL draft analysts, was the robust lineman couldn't consistently stay on the field as a three-down player. On the big hit against Moore, the coaching staff actually schemed up the play call for Shelton to drop back in a disguised zone coverage.
While the Browns are still five days away from playing their first preseason game against the Redskins, Cleveland has seen no signs of Shelton tiring. In fact, with Shelton's quick progression, the Browns want to get creative with their first-round pick in critical situations.
"I have no problems putting a big guy out there on third down," Pettine said. "If teams do want to run it, he can disrupt it and we can still be in light spacing from a scheme standpoint. He's a guy that can push the pocket. Sometimes you get these lighter pass rushers that offensive linemen can control.
"If you have a guy that struggles with bull rush, you're going to put a guy like Danny out there."
Shelton smiled throughout his postgame interview. Teammates have embraced the unique energy and culture he's brought to Cleveland. But don't mistake the happiness for satisfaction. Shelton is already anticipating being the first person back on the practice field Sunday.
"I'm just here to do my job," Shelton said, "and make sure the team is having success."