In their first meeting together, Danny Shelton and Browns defensive line coach Robert Nunn spoke little of football. Instead, they mapped out a plan to help the nose tackle and 2015 first-round draft pick reach his potential.
"We talked about his approach in the offseason, his plan in the offseason, his game plan going into the season and maintaining it throughout the season," Nunn said Tuesday afternoon. "And that's been as impressive as anything."
Indeed, Shelton has been something of a one-man wrecking crew for a Browns defense that has had its share of highs and lows this season. He has 45 tackles, 1.5 sacks through 12 games and was named to Pro Football Focus' All-Midseason team earlier this month.
But the seeds of Shelton's transformation into one of the league's top run-stoppers were laid long ago. It started in that offseason meeting in which Shelton resolved to slim down and get into the best shape of his life.
"The thing that I told him is the first thing he's got to do is get his mind right," Nunn said. "And I've dealt with a lot of big guys in this league and it's not an easy thing to do for those guys. What he's done is put himself in a position to be an elite player, an elite run-stopper in this league. And he's not finished yet, we're gonna keep building and keep adding to what he can do but I can't say enough good things about him."
That change, Nunn said, was Shelton's "approach in the offseason, where he's got to get with his weight and his diet."
"You can't come in here to get in shape, a guy like him can't come in here in training to get in shape, a guy like that, that's just the way he's built. It's not any different than a lot of big guys in this league," he said.
"When he comes in here, he's got to be in shape and that's what he did. He came in, he was in great condition, probably — you'd have to ask him — but as good as condition he's ever been in and he's maintained it, that's the other impressive thing. He's kept it, maintained it."
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton spoke highly of Shelton's progress two weeks ago when asked about the development of one of the league's youngest defenses. That includes Shelton, the second-year player from Washington.
"I have made the comment, he may be the smartest defensive lineman – for sure nose tackle – I think I have ever been around and ever heard of as far as understanding offensive sets and formations and having the ability to see what is around him rather than just the guard and center combination. Extremely brilliant as far as football is concerned," he said.
"I don't think those are things that you can measure. He has a tremendous will to be good, and he has taken steps that way. The challenge for him is to keep doing it. I think the league has noticed, and I just hope he gets the recognition that he deserves and continues to play the way he is playing."
"I feel like he's been playing at a high level throughout the whole year," Nunn added. "I know he's getting a lot more attention now because it's starting to spread and when I talk to offense and defensive line coaches before each game, I don't have to bring him up.
"He's brought up for them. One of the biggest compliments you get in this league is when they come and say I'm having my guys watching him on tape. That's a compliment of what he's put together and the season he's having."