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Giants’ Danny Shelton is a big man with a big role to play

Shelton has primary responsibility for replacing Dalvin Tomlinson

Danny Shelton
Ed Valentine

Dexter Lawrence is a huge man, listed at 6-foot-4 and 342 pounds. Even he admits, though, that new teammate Danny Shelton makes him feel “a little bit” small.

“He’s a massive dude,” said Lawrence.

Yours truly has joked in print that Shelton, listed at 6-2 and 345, can two-gap without having to move.

Jokes aside, the soon-to-be 28-year-old Shelton is a massive dude, as Lawrence says, with a massive job to do for the 2021 Giants.

In his seventh season and with his fourth NFL team, Shelton is being tasked with the primary responsibility for replacing Dalvin Tomlinson at nose tackle. Tomlinson, of course, signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings.

Shelton, almost startingly soft-spoken for a man so big, told media on Friday that he has heard “very few” references to Tomlinson since joining the Giants during the offseason. The Giants are his fourth NFL team, following stops with the Browns, New England Patriots and Detroit Lions.

“Obviously he’s [Tomlinson] a great player,” Shelton said. “He earned his contract and we’ve just been focused on this season and building this team and getting ready for pads coming up.”

Shelton isn’t looking at his chance with the Giants as replacing Tomlinson.

“The way I look at it is I got an opportunity to work, so coming in and wherever they need me, I’m going to be ready,” Shelton said. ‘Whether it’s me getting in the playbook, me getting in the weight room, cardio, conditioning, I’m just going to do everything I can to get on the field and help the team win.”

Lawrence said that Shelton has “a good personality” and has “fit right in” with the team’s other defensive linemen.

Shelton’s career has not gone as hoped since he was a first-round pick (12th overall) by the Cleveland Browns in 2015.

Shelton had triceps surgery this offseason and signed a one-year, $1.1275 million deal with the Giants as a free agent.

“It’s been a different offseason for me,” Shelton said. “I had my injury obviously and had to go through rehab and go through being released [by Detroit] and picked up by the Giants. It’s a new experience for me, but a great learning opportunity and feel like it’s been great so far.”

Shelton spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons in New England, when Giants coach Joe Judge was special teams coordinator there. The 2019 season (3.0 sacks, 61 tackles) was the most productive of his career.

Judge and the Giants are hoping to get the New England version of Shelton, not the player who struggled with Detroit in 2020.

“I see the same thing from my time with him in 2018 as I do now, and that’s a guy who, first off, comes in every day with a huge smile. Nice guy, loves life,” Judge said. “I don’t want to speak for Danny on that, but just from being around him, he’s always smiling. He’s a great teammate. Anything you ask him to do, he does at 100 percent, whatever is best for the team. He’s a guy that will talk to a vet as well as a young player in terms of trying to help them with something he may have some knowledge on. He’s a guy that’s really good as far as building culture and a rapport with an individual position, and also within the unit.

“As far as a player, he’s obviously a big, athletic man. You see the way he showed up at initial tests — which you guys weren’t there for, but you see a guy with that size run the way he did and work through the summer on some things he had to overcome, and work through from some spring injuries and some nicks and bumps that he couldn’t go through all the way. It showed his commitment and work ethic to what he’s pushing himself to do. This guy has really changed his body throughout his career, he really has. I mean a lot of big guys accept being big. We try to impress on all of our players that conditioning has to be an advantage for us. You watch the way Danny prepares and practices, that definitely shows up his understanding of how he fits in our system.”

Shelton obviously has admiration for Judge.

“I think Joe’s just a great guy. I mean, he’s the same person, really. He always has energy. He always has that fieriness about him. He’s like one of the guys that you just want to play for, you don’t want to let him down,” Shelton said. “I was on a field goal for him [in New England] and I messed up a couple of times. I hated that I did that and tried to get back on field goal and tried to prove myself. But now seeing him as the head coach is awesome and he’s a hard-working coach and really cares about football and winning and just the guys. Getting everybody on one page.”

Shelton said the environment with the Giants is “very similar” to what Bill Belichick created with the Patriots.

“I just like being out here,” Shelton said. “Honestly, it’s the players for me. Seeing everybody lock into the system. Young, high energy and it’s just a great feeling.”

It will be an even better feeling is Shelton is part of helping Judge create a winning team with the Giants.