On Wednesday night the Falcons bolstered their defensive line by signing former Miami Dolphin Derrick Shelby to a four year deal.
Former Dolphin Derrick Shelby gets a $5 million signing bonus from Falcons in 4-year deal. A total of $7.5 million guaranteed.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) March 10, 2016
Shelby flew under the radar, splitting time between defensive end and defensive tackle for the Dolphins, and that's probably the role he'll play in Atlanta as well. The Falcons are looking to get more athletic on the defensive line, and Shelby fits that label even though he's not the most athletic defensive end out there. At the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, Shelby ran a slow 40 yard dash, but had an elite short shuttle time, along with solid performances in the 3 cone, broad jump, and vertical jump.
Derrick Shelby should slide into the strongside defensive end role in the Falcons defense while kicking inside to three-technique on occasion. He can be overwhelming at the point of attack and shows off a strong bull rush to help him generate pressure on the quarterback.
A lot of Shelby's best work comes against the run. He excels at finding the ball and working down the line of scrimmage without creating cutback lanes for running backs to exploit. It's fair to credit some of Shelby's production last season to presence of Ndamukong Suh, but it's a good sign that he's able to locate the ball amongst chaos.
He's lined up over right tackle Marcus Cannon on the following play. Watch him navigate through traffic to bring down former Atlanta Falcon Steven Jackson for a short gain.
He also does a fantastic job of shutting down run plays that come towards him on the strongside. Shelby is a player that's clearly spent a lot of time trying to master the subtleties of defense line play. Here versus the Cowboys, he keeps his outside shoulder clean, extends against Doug Free, and locates the running back for a tackle in the backfield.
Shelby has the strength to play on the interior of the defensive line as well. As a 270 pound player this won't be his calling card, but he shows a great awareness to create pressure and disrupt passing lanes coming up the middle.
Shelby's bull rush is his best asset as a pass rusher and he shows it on this play versus the Chargers he bowls the center right towards Philip Rivers before knocking the ball away.
Even when Shelby doesn't get that close to the quarterback he still shows off a precise skill to find the ball rushing off the edge. Again, his bull rush gets him in a position to knock the ball away versus the Jets.
For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus was very high on Shelby's play last season for the Dolphins. He finished as their tenth ranked 4-3 defensive end while ranking 8th versus the run and 15th rushing the passer (right behind Vic Beasley). Pro Football Focus credited him with 31 quarterback hurries, 6 hits, and 4 sacks. Very nice production for a reasonable contract situation coming into Atlanta.
Shelby isn't a world beater by any stretch, so don't expect him to become the next Michael Bennett. Like Bennett, he offers inside-out versatility that Atlanta didn't really have on their defensive line last season. Shelby adds a dimension of awareness and technical prowess that should help fortify the Falcons run defense and potentially help them get after the passer. Adding him with Vic Beasley, Grady Jarrett, Jonathan Babineaux, and new re-signed Adrian Clayborn gives the Falcons a talented defensive line for the 2016 season.