Shelby Looking To Take The Next Step

Posted Aug 6, 2013

Defensive end looks to go from wide-eyed rookie to seasoned veteran.

It’s a new and improved Derrick Shelby who is going through his second training camp with the Dolphins.

The defensive end from Utah has benefited from a year of experience and his technique also has improved, especially when it comes to pass rushing. But the biggest change, and the biggest reason Shelby hopes to take a big step in 2013, has little to do with the technical aspect of his craft.

Shelby just isn’t starstruck anymore.

“Last year was my first year and all the guys I was playing against, even in college I would watch these guys like, wow, these guys are like the best at what they do,” Shelby said after practice Tuesday. “And then the next year I’m playing them. It’s kind of hard to get out of that mode to where it’s like I’m playing against the guys you pretty much idolized.

“This year, that was one of my main focus, coming back down to earth and seeing we’re all just football players.”

Now, Shelby is one of “these guys.”

The 6-2, 280-pound Shelby clearly wasn’t just another guy Sunday night when he recorded two sacks in the Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Shelby recorded his first sack on the last play of the first quarter basically with one arm as he was engaged with an offensive lineman while bringing down quarterback Nick Stephens. He got Stephens again on a third-down play after rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan’s outside rush got Stephens to move up in the pocket.

It was an impressive preseason start for Shelby, who appeared in all 16 games as a backup in 2012 but failed to record a sack.

Improving his pass-rushing skills was one thing Shelby clearly wanted to improve after last season ended.

“Of course, I had to rush better,” he said. “I think I played about 200 snaps last year. All I had were QB hurries, so it was good to actually finish it this year.”

Shelby actually had flashed some pass-rushing potential during the 2012 preseason, recording a sack in a game against the Carolina Panthers.

This summer, he has operated under the radar among a group of defensive ends that includes two-time Pro Bowl selection Cameron Wake, emerging pass rusher Olivier Vernon and Jordan.

But it was impossible not to notice Shelby on Sunday night.

“He was around the quarterback a couple of times,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s a guy that quietly goes about his job that at the end of the day you put the tape on, he seems to be doing it pretty well.”

Like the other young defensive ends on the team, Shelby has never hesitated seeking the advice of Wake, who knows a thing or two about rushing the passer.

“He always helps, especially when I feel like a guy is giving me a particular set,” Shelby said. “I always go pick his brain to see what move he would do and then I go try and implement it in my game.”

Shelby’s performance on Sunday night made his mentor proud.

“I taught him everything he knows,” Wake said, laughing. “Him and Olivier are probably the two guys that had the best offseasons, as far as working on things that they needed to work on and doing what they have to get better. Both of those guys were rookies last year, and that first offseason you have as a pro I think is your most memorable and most important.

“These guys came straight from college, put in the work that they needed to put in during the offseason and more. For Derrick it showed on Sunday night. I’m really proud of him.”

Shelby was one of the success stories of training camp last summer, as he joined offensive lineman Josh Samuda as the only undrafted rookie free agents signed after the draft to make the initial 53-man roster.

His goal coming into his second training camp was pretty simple.

“Just improve on last year,” Shelby said. “Last year I guess I surprised a few people making the team. This year I want to not only be a guy on the team, but if Cam is out of the game, I want be a guy making an impact while he’s on the sidelines.”

Shelby clearly made an impact in the preseason opener.

The player who was starstruck last year was just a star on that night.

“Last year I think I was pretty wide-eyed,” Shelby said. “After going through the whole year I saw what I needed to get better at and that’s what I worked on this offseason. I guess some of that translated to the game.”
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