How Danny Shelton's 'tremendous will' set the stage for a big season

The Danny Shelton of 2016 is who the Browns envisioned this past spring.

With a leaner figure and sharpened focus, the second-year nose tackle drew praise from the coaching staff after the completion of OTAs. Now 10 weeks into the season, it's clear Shelton's work in the offseason has paid off.

"Danny is having an outstanding year, and I know sometimes we get questions about Danny and it's hard to see him all the time, but if you look at the battle within the battle, he's really having a dominant year," defensive coordinator Ray Horton said Friday.

"He's playing at a high level and that's part of the reason you have ability to control the run is those guys up front, so it's progress and we will see if we can continue to progress."

Shelton, who has 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks thus far, was named to Pro Football Focus' Midseason All-Pro Team last week. The football analytics site reports the 2015 first-round draft pick leads defensive linemen with 30 total stops.

"He's been dominating in there," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "When you turn on the film, you see him running around the field and controlling the line of scrimmage."

That kind of production, Horton said, is correlated with what he described as an off-the-charts type of football IQ.

"I didn't know Danny – I had met Danny before in his college years – (but) I didn't know how smart he was," Horton said.

"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."

Horton also heaped praise on Shelton's "passion" for playing.

"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," he said.

"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."​

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