BEREA— Danny Shelton’s highlight tape coming out of the Universtiy of Washington was loaded with bullrushes and big tackles in the backfield— the kind of plays that earned him the honor of being selected by the Browns with the 12th pick in the 2015 draft.
In his first NFL Training Camp, the aforementioned plays continued to show up on film, as Shelton often pushed through Browns center Alex Mack on his way to the backfield to wrap up a rusher.
Just four games into the regular season, however, and Shelton hasn’t quite lived up to the hype he's created.
The backfield bullrushes are few and far between and the ability to rush the passer has seemed somewhat non-existent.
Shelton himself is the first to admit that his performance thus far has been average at best.
“All right,” Shelton said, when asked to describe his performance through four games. “Nothing really that stands out, and that’s what I want to change. I want to be able to look at film and see a different player.”
Browns defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil too wants to see the rookie making plays, which is why he made a point of calling out Shelton as the Browns head into their battle with Baltimore.
"We've challenged him,” O’Neil said. “We want him to pop off the tape when he's in there. He knows that.”
So, what changed for Shelton— the collegiate and preseason monster— as the Browns regular season got under way?
He feels that part of it is the sheer number of snaps.
“Being in the league, it’s a lot different,” Shelton said. “In college, I was a guy who played 70 to 80 plays… Some games, you don’t even get to 70 [as a defense]. It’s a lot different, but is just a matter of time.”
Shelton believes too that the Browns system designates him more as a guy to take on blockers and free up the pass rush, which is taking time to adjust to as well.
“You have to buy into the system, and part of the system is taking up two or three blockers so other players can make plays,” Shelton said. “I don’t have a problem with that. Just have to buy into the system, continue to play my game and don’t let it affect me.”
He may not want it to affect him, but that's easier said than done.
After all, if he wants to make big plays in the backfield, he’s got a lot of work ahead of him— literally.
“I just have to figure out how to make plays in the backfield after defeating two or three blockers,” Shelton said with a laugh.” I just have to continue to grow and learn how to beat those double teams and make plays in the backfield.”
While it remains to be seen whether or not Shelton will be able to make the plays he’s strived for, he understands that the challenge posed by the Ravens offensive line may be the biggest he’s faced this season.
“All across the board, you see aggression,” Shelton said. “I guess they’re better in that sense, compared to the other lines we’ve played against.”
For all of your Browns news, updates and analysis from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.