Over the past season, we have seen the Dolphins struggle defending the run. They allowed 2,325 yards on the ground which is the second most in the league right behind the Cardinals. It is obvious they need help to stop the run. A big player will be hitting free agency who can bolster this defensive unit.
Danny Shelton Background
That player is a former first-round pick, Danny Shelton. Danny Shelton is 6 foot 2 inches and 345 pounds. Shelton just wrapped up his first year with the Patriots after being traded by the Browns. After, Shelton four-year contract is up this offseason he will be 25 years old.
He will be a relatively cheap player for the Dolphins to target in free agency but could carry a lot of value as a player to improve this run defense.
Danny Shelton has many strengths, but his two main ones are his ways of utilizing his hands and his large frame to not allow movement. Both skills will let him play at the level needed to stop a rushing attack.
Good Hand Usage
Danny Shelton always has very active hands. For, an example on this play we see the Bills running outside zone and attempting to reach Danny Shelton. Shelton is large and not athletic enough to cut off and defend against a reach so instead, he uses his active hands to not let himself get reached.
We see Shelton uses his left arm to swipe away the reach arm from the guard. By swiping away the guard’s hand away it allows Shelton to pin his hands and swim over top and get back into his frontside gap. He gains control again, allowing him to come freely to meet LeSean McCoy for a minimal gain.
This is a great example of Danny Shelton skills being translated well for the Dolphins. The Dolphins lack talent in the middle of the line that can fight off incoming hands from blockers.
By adding this skill set it could immediately help this defense shut down backside running lanes and close large lanes that open in the interior.
Physical at the Point of Contact/ Not Easy to Move
Clearly with the large frame of Shelton being 345 pounds makes him a hard player to move off the line of scrimmage. For an example, on this play, Shelton is playing his NT role. At the snap of the ball, we see the Bears running inside zone where Cody Whitehair attempts to block Shelton one on one.
Shelton feels the attempted block he drops an anchor and posts up with this he creates huge separation. This lockout by Shelton prevents Cody Whitehair to bring his second step through vertically and paired with Shelton anchoring this allows zero movement.
It stops all movement but with the extension it allows Whitehair to get his hips around Shelton to open a lane. This has a domino effect by not allowing the movement it gives way more room for the second level to move freely and fill gaps.
Danny Shelton stays in his original role at the line of scrimmage playing his 2-gap technique as a NT. With this domino effect happening, it allows the Patriots to stuff the run for a no gain.
Adding this skill set to the Dolphins defensive line it will automatically bolster this unit by not allowing movement into the second level alone will improve the performance for these backers.
Shelton taking up the room and not allowing movement into the second level it will allow the athleticism of Kiko to elevate letting him fly around to fill lanes. Also, this play relates back to point one of his quick hands to shed the block for and uses his high motor to get in on the tackle.
Danny Shelton’s strengths can be his weaknesses also. Looking at his size and frame he is extremely large at 345 pounds which will hinder his performance at putting pressure on the passer.
Nonetheless, Danny Shelton plays with an extremely high motor against the run and the pass but on passing down don’t expect to see Shelton getting in the face of any quarterback.
This, of course, is a downside but in the end, the first job of stopping an offense is stopping the run. Another weakness is from one of his strengths which is his size. Due to being so large, it is not his strong suit to push into the backfield or make plays in the backfield.
Yet he has the potential with his strength to throw less talented offensive lineman into the backfield. In the end, he is more of standing strong and meeting the runner at the line of scrimmage.
Danny Shelton is the large physical body who can successfully play as a 2 gap NT. He has also taken snaps at 3-tech, but he is more naturally suited for the NT role.
Shelton plays with a high motor and has a lot of success by filling up space and not allowing movement by anchoring down. He has a great natural feel when it comes to filling lanes and he could make a huge impact as a run defender for the Dolphins.
He may not put pressure on the QB or meet runners in the backfield, but he has the skills to bottle up runners for minimal gains on a consistent basis. Combining his quick hand fighting, his large size to control blocks, and his high motor will all add to an immediate upgrade to the Dolphins defense.
Wrapping it up Danny Shelton won’t be flashy in stats or big plays but instead, he will take up room, redirect double teams, and give the second level guys smaller gaps to fill to make the bigger plays.