Detroit Lions: Where in the world is Danny Shelton?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports /

Where in the world is Danny Shelton?  One of the Detroit Lions 2020 ‘big-named’ free agents has yet to prove his worth.

When the Detroit Lions signed free agent Danny Shelton, it seemed like a perfect acquisition to a defense that struggles to stop the run, and the New England castaway fits perfectly in head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme.  Plus, it was just a two-year deal worth a mere $8-million.

Shelton did not cross paths with Patricia in New England, arriving in the same offseason the Detroit Lions hired Matt to take over the reins in Detroit.  Shelton had previously spent time with the dreadful Cleveland Browns before landing with the Patriots.

In typical Bill Belichick form, the leagues’ top coach, he seems to find the right time to pay a player and knows when to close the pocketbook allowing them to seek employment elsewhere.  It’s definitely a gift.

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In this case, Shelton, who historically is known to be a reliable interior run defender, has declined in that aspect of the game in each of the last five seasons.  At one time, Shelton was a spectacular run defender earning high marks from Pro Football Focus (PFF) in the category.  With Cleveland in 2016, PFF awarded Shelton with a phenomenal 83.7 grade defending the run.  Since then, that mark continues to decline a bit each season.

In the first of two years with the Patriots, Shelton produced the second-best overall mark of his career at 76.2, which included a 76.3 run defense score.

In 2019 that overall mark fell to 70.6, and his run-stuffing ability came in at just 66.2.  It’s no wonder Belichick did not bat an eye when Shelton hit the open market.  I must add, something his grade doesn’t show, last season Shelton created a career-best 18 pressures and three sacks.

That dwindling trend has miserably continued in 2020, Shelton’s first season with the Detroit Lions.

Keep in mind that it is just a small sample size, but Shelton’s lack of production is becoming quite concerning.  Don’t forget; many players use the preseason schedule and full offseason to shake the cobwebs and get back into the groove of things.  As we head into Week Four of the NFL schedule, that should not be an excuse moving forward.

Shelton’s declining trend is concerning.  He’s been regularly bullied inside, often being pushed back rather than creating any type of interior penetration that we expect from him.  He’s provided the Lions with an awful overall score of 57.9, a career-low and also defending the run at just a 52.4 clip, by far a career-worst.

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Through the first three games of the season, Shelton has combined for 11 tackles and two pressures.  After an atrocious first two weeks of the season, Shelton rebounded like most of the Detroit defense, earning a respectable 68.8 mark, including a 69.3 run defending grade.  Hopefully, that is a sign of things to come.