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New York Giants DT Danny Shelton: The Good, the Great, and the Ugly

The Giants made a big (no pun intended) free agency signing in the form of defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Nick Falato breaks down Shelton's film and anticipates where he'll fit into the defense.
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In defensive tackle Danny Shelton, the Giants added a 6’2, 345-pound mountain of a man to their defensive line unit. The former Browns’ first-round selection in 2016 has spent time with the New England Patriots and was most recently on the Detroit Lions.

He’s coming off a season where he played 498 total snaps (261 run defense snaps)and earned 15 STOPS (a Pro Football Focus stat that determines negative plays for the offense).

Shelton is the frontrunner to fill some of Dalvin Tomlinson’s snaps as a two-gapping nose technique who can take on double team blocks and allow linebackers to scrape laterally or come downhill relatively unscathed. For reference, Tomlinson had 26 STOPS in 314 run defense snaps.

The athletic ability and natural leverage that Tomlinson would use to control the point of attack are difficult skills to replicate. However, Shelton plays with excellent natural leverage and has effectively two-gapped on every team he’s played.

Let’s look at some plays from 2020 in this edition of The Good, The Great, and The Ugly.

(Danny Shelton is No. 71.)

The Good: Adjustment

Look, Danny Shelton isn’t going to win many foot races, nor will he ever be a consistent impact player as a pass rusher, but he still displays good reactionary quickness.

Shelton is not the nose technique above, but the 3-Technique to the strength; the Vikings are known to move the pocket and pass off their excellent rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook (33).

Shelton does a great job recognizing the play-action fake and spinning off multiple blocks as the line of scrimmage crashes in his direction. Shelton breaks free and gets a run at Kirk Cousins (No. 8); however, his lack of burst and athletic ability does not allow him to close width.

Shelton displays his leverage and ability to take on down blocks as a 4i-Technique going up against a tackle; he does a great job using his outside arm to lift the center of gravity of the tackle, which sets up his outside spin to position himself in the rushing lane. He’s a bit late to the spot, but still a solid adjustment.

As a 3-technique, Shelton detects the lateral flow of the play and engages the guard using superior upper body strength to shed the guard inside before the tackle can execute his transition on the deuce block.

The tackle notices he’s late and attempts to cut block Shelton who does a great job adjusting and changing direction off his inside foot to get in the way of Tarik Cohen (29). There’s nowhere for Cohen to go, and he gets tackled for a STOP.

Shelton is on the left side of the screen at 4i-Technique, and this isn’t a ringing endorsement of his ability to anchor down against double teams - something he does solidly.

He loses to the deuce combo block and is driven about two yards off the line of scrimmage, but he adjusts himself, sinks his center of gravity, and quickly recollects his balance to win once the tackle transitions off the block. There’s a lot of resilience in this play.

The Great: Control at Point of Attack

Shelton put on a great performance in week four against the Saints--one of the league's better offensive lines. Shelton’s the nose, directly over the center here, a position he’ll likely occupy in Patrick Graham’s scheme.

This is an excellent play against Erik McCoy (78), a very talented young center. Shelton sinks his hips, establishes inside contact, plays peek-a-boo with the lineman--he leans inside, sees the running back’s path, adjusts, and crashes outside to collapse the A-Gap, effectively two-gapping. Shelton has real strength and pop in his 10¼” hands. He does a very good job stacking and shedding linemen at the point of attack.

Here he does it again; fires off the ball, stays low, gets his eyes in the backfield, uses that outside arm to control, and then just his anchoring ability not to be moved at all. Shelton dictates the rep and is a big reason why this is a negative play.

Here’s Shelton at the nose position again, going up against a power/gap zone-read concept with the talented Alvin Kamara (44) and quarterback Taysom Hill (7). Hill keeps the ball and attempts to run off the play-side guard’s rear-end.

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Shelton is the player who is being down blocked here, but he was not having it! Shelton gets to the guard’s outside shoulder and uses a club/chop move to separate before he shows good location ability to make a tackle for another STOP.

Shelton’s the backside 3-Technique on this stretch zone blocking play. Talented tackle Terron Armstead (72) is tasked to reach block (inside), and Shelton does a great job using his outside arm to disallow Armstead from getting into his frame.

Shelton shows some solid bend and foot speed to locate Kamara down the line of scrimmage for yet another STOP.

Elgton Jenkins (No. 74) is one of the more talented young interior offensive linemen in the NFL, and Shelton defeats him on this scoop attempt.

Shelton is the 1-Technique and, once the snap happens, Shelton uses his outside shoulder to make contact with Jenkins' outside shoulder as he tries to scoop him; the big defender then uses his excellent strength to explode through his hips and control.

Then, Shelton takes his inside arm and pulls Jenkins more inside and downward to completely control the point of attack. Jenkins does a solid job trying to reestablish position, but Shelton and the Lions locate Aaron Jones (33) for the loss.

Corey Linsley (63) signed a massive contract with the Chargers this off-season, and Shelton shows him power on this play. Shelton does a good job getting horizontal to avoid the guard from connecting on the ace block.

This is another scoop attempt that went wrong for an interior offensive lineman who couldn’t control the raw strength of Danny Shelton.

This is a very common front from Patrick Graham’s 2020 defense; a tight front with a 4i-Technique to the strength and a 3-Technique on the weak side, with a nose.

Shelton is the nose, and he does a great job moving laterally, stacking the center, and then shedding him with great leverage, grip strength, and ability to close interior rushing lanes.

This play shows his leverage and anchoring ability against a double team deuce block. Shelton shoots his outside arm into the guard, establishes a wide base, sinks his hips, and stays in position through the double team attempt to make a tackle against Chase Edmunds (29).

This type of ability is necessary in Patrick Graham’s system, and while Dexter Lawrence has some of these capabilities, he’s better as the 4i-technique in the tight front.

The Ugly: Pass Rush

Basketball is known for having its role players, but the NFL has a similar model. Danny Shelton is a role player who is a two-down run stuffer who can control blocks as a two-gaping defensive lineman.

He’s not the ideal 3-technique who will penetrate and use upfield burst to challenge interior offensive lineman’s angles. He wins with strength, leverage, good hand usage, and sheer power.

Shelton only has 5.5 sacks in 1,425 pass play snaps, but his job isn’t necessarily to consistently rush the passer. He’s tasked to hold linemen at times and allow his teammates to make plays.

His athletic ability will always be an issue in terms of rushing the passer, but he has a solid bull-rush and uses good power in his hands. He’s not inept in that area, but if there’s an ugly, it’s his ability to rush the passer effectively--the burst and explosiveness aren’t there.

Final Thoughts

I like this signing for the Giants. Shelton will help replace Tomlinson and can fill the currently vacant position as a two-gapping nose technique.

This allows Dexter Lawrence to continue playing a similar role that he played last year while providing flexibility to Patrick Graham’s personnel upfront. This is another familiar low-cost signing that can have a substantial impact.

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