Skip to main content


Danny Shelton, run defense ready for their first test

Danny Shelton stirred around the locker room Wednesday with a gold towel draped around his shoulders.

While his flowing locks dried after a post-practice shower, he watched teammates Paul Kruger and Tank Carder play a game of chess. He watched Christian Kirksey conduct an interview. He soaked in the fact that this is his first regular week of his NFL career.

As the rookie from Washington continued to survey the locker room with his ears, his surroundings were as quiet as he's ever heard them in Cleveland.

"Everybody's more focused," Shelton said. "It's kind of like the calm before the storm."

In American history books, the summer of 2015 may be remembered for hot button presidential candidate Donald Trump. In Berea, it'll be remembered for Shelton's earthquake arrival in the middle of the defense, where he's projected to become the first Browns rookie to start since 2012.

New revelations about the 339-pound wrecking ball sprung up every day in training camp. Teammates often asked him: "Do you ever get tired?" Shelton's motor isn't something you find on a Porsche or Mustang, but more a steamboat or cruise ship.

The progress was visible, but now that Week 1 has bestowed itself upon us, the focus on Shelton goes from individual to team-wide: How soon can he help tighten the run defense?


The test to begin Year 2 in defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil's system starts with a trio of New York running backs in Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy. Shelton calls the Jets running scheme "downhill," meaning they are going to run straight up the gut right at big ole No. 71.

"It means I have to be prepared to make plays," Shelton said.

The 27-year-old Ivory has strung together back-to-back 800-yard seasons while averaging nearly 4.4 yards per carry. Ivory is known as a punishing back who can absorb contact and keep moving. And the Jets won't shy away from rushing the ball 30-plus times if that's what it takes Sunday.

What Shelton has been mastering is the mental side of the NFL, especially his cues pre-snap. Veteran defensive ends Desmond Bryant and Randy Starks have come up with a communication system to alert Shelton when they think a double-team is coming his way.

"That's one of these things playing with these veterans – these guys point out things and all I have to do is just listen," Shelton said.

A student of the game, Shelton relished facing Bills guard Richie Incognito during joint practices in August with Buffalo. He has a similar sentiment this week facing Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold.

It's unknown how exactly the Browns will use Shelton at MetLife stadium in his first official NFL contest. Will O'Neil game-plan with his enormous nose tackle? Will he use Shelton more as a decoy to set up others?

Whatever the case may be, Cleveland will depend on its first-round pick to throw off the Jets on offense. And whether it's fair or not, Shelton and O'Neil will be judged on how successfully – or unsuccessfully – New York runs the football.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content