BEREA, Ohio--As the Browns begin the preseason Friday night in Green Bay, one of the more compelling story lines is at nose tackle.
Danny Shelton has made a change in his appearance.
No, not that he traded in his No. 71 jersey for No. 55, but rather he has dropped 30 pounds from his playing weight last season and is now at a svelte 335 pounds.
“As far as losing weight, it’s always going to be something that a player notices right away," Shelton said. "For me, it was just lighter on my feet, just feeling more quick. Then just going off of last year’s camp and this year’s camp, it’s been different for me in a sense of just taking on a new role and trying to be more focused and more serious about the game. I’m still out here trying to have fun and everything, but at the same time, I want big things to happen for the Browns.”
Shelton said he's noticed the difference being lighter.
"It's definitely helped me with my ability to be able to play quicker and faster," he said. "At the same time it's helped me realize that i need to start taking this job more serious and this change more serious. and in a sense its helped me mature."
The Browns have not been able to stop the run for the most part since the franchise re-booted in 1999 and Shelton was drafted last year largely for that purpose. In 2015, that was still the case as the Browns finished 30th in the NFL against the run giving up 128.4 yards a game.
"Its a great challenge, great opportunity for me, because its challenging me to become more mature, more of a dominant player every play," Shelton said. "Our goal as a defense is to stop the run and then stop the passes. if we do that every down, were going to be able to reach our goal of being a top 10 defense."
Shelton, who will turn 23 next week, had just 36 tackles in his rookie season with no sacks and no turnovers. He was not the disruptive force he was expected to be after being the No. 12 overall pick in last year's draft.
Defensive line coach Robert Nunn thinks Shelton could be a dominant player on the interior of the defense.
“When I first walked in the door, I told Danny he could change the way we play defense himself just by buying in, getting himself in great condition and playing with a hot motor," Nunn said. "Since that day that I’ve talked to him, he’s done nothing but that. In the weight room, off the field with his diet, training throughout the summer, staying in touch with the people that are working with him, he’s done exactly that. So far, it has shown.
"He’s got a different skillset than most people in this league," he said. "He’s such a powerful man. He’s a big body who has a lot of quickness and power. I couldn’t be more pleased with him right now. He just have to keep doing what he’s doing. I told him that when we were in meetings this morning. He wants to know this and wants know how. You keep doing exactly what you’re doing and buying into what we’re trying to do and again, he can be the one as much as anybody out here, can change how we play defense."
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has said during the off-season that he thinks Shelton can be a three-down player and not just predominantly be on the field on first and second downs.
“He can help us," Nunn said. "He can do more than just be a first and second down player. When he’s playing at a high level and at nose guard, there are certain offenses that are not going to keep pounding their head against that rock.
"There are certain plays we won’t see against certain schemes and that helps when you don’t have to defend certain things because they won’t go in there if he’s playing at a high level and doing the things that he can do," he said. "He’s off to an outstanding start, along with all of them. There is no one that has shown up that hasn’t bought in that I don’t feel comfortable about.”
Shelton is excited in what he sees of Horton's defense.
“I think everybody is on the same page," he said. "I think that’s the biggest difference. That’s the biggest thing people can see is that we have every position group, everyone as far as class from rookie to two years to 13 years, everybody is on the same page. Everybody has bought in to (Head) Coach (Hue) Jackson’s system. It’s going great.”
Inside linebacker Christian Kirksey knows if Shelton can tie up two blockers, it will make life for him and Demario Davis much easier.
"(Shelton's) energy and what he brings to the field is ridiculous," Kirksey said. "He's a bigger guy who can clog up the middle, but at the same time, he's fast on his feet. We have a guy with both of those attributes. It's crazy,"