Tyler Shelvin Plays Big Role In Cincinnati Bengals Defense as a Rookie

Tyler Shelvin is a big man looking at a big role after landing in Cincinnati through the 2021 NFL Draft. The rookie gets to compete with several formal LSU teammates, hoping to bring their championship-winning formula to the Queen City. Normally, a fourth-round pick like Shelvin would have a little more lead time to become a contributor. However, the Bengals defensive issues call for a player like the rookie interior menace to make a splash. 

Rookie Defender Tyler Shelvin Will Need to Contribute Big Snaps for Bengals in 2021

Making major upgrades to their defensive line in recent off-seasons, Tyler Shelvin is a unique fixture on this evolving roster. Granted, he might be one of the more important additions to the group, given his age and potential. Still, as a fourth-round pick (122nd-overall), Shelvin has plenty of room to grow. Given his tremendous size at 6’2”,  350 Lbs, he represents a massive barrier for opposing offensive linemen. 

Shelvin joins former LSU teammates Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Burrow, and Thaddeus Moss in Cincinnati. Interestingly, he’s the lone member of the championship Tigers on the defensive side of the ball. Like Chase, Shelvin sat out the 2020 college football season to prepare for the NFL Draft. This gave him time to refine his skillset and build an arsenal for the professional game. Depending on the results of that training, Shevlin might have a whole new set of tricks up his sleeve. 

Regardless of what he’s added, his advantages at LSU were clear. Even as a big man, Shelvin moves well in short space, making it hard for running backs to take advantage. More than that, his power and knowledge of leverage make him a nightmare match-up for interior offensive linemen. Interestingly, he worked Alabama’s All-American center, Landon Dickerson, with regularity when the two squared off in 2019. Now, in Cincinnati, it’s time for Shelvin to go to work against more pro-level guards and make an impact. 

Alongside DJ Reader, Shelvin Brings A Massive Upgrade to the Run-Stop 

Cincinnati’s defense must present significant improvement against the run this season. In the last two seasons, no team has allowed more rushing yards than the Cincinnati Bengals. Allowing teams to rush for 4,750 over the last 32 games, they’ve been dreadful. No team in the bottom five of this category has made the playoffs in either season. It might not be fair to Shelvin, but there’s some pressure on him to perform in that role this season. After all, LSU’s defense allowed 138.6 rushing yards per game in 2019. That was the fifth-fewest in the SEC and especially impressive given the Tigers’ lofty competition. 

Importantly, Shelvin will have a very impressive run-stopper joining him on the Bengals interior this season. After a major injury ended his 2020 campaign prematurely, DJ Reader returns to bring his space-eating style to the Bengals. Combining Reader with Shelvin makes this Bengals run-stopping effort a lot more fearsome. In 2019, Reader earned an 83.3 run defending grade to go along with his 86.7 overall grade for the Houston Texans. If he can do that alongside Shelvin in Cincinnati, that’ll greatly help the rookie do his job.

Moreover, this team is expected to have one of the worst linebacking groups in the NFL this season. According to Pro Football Focus, the group currently ranks 31st in football, just one place ahead of the Green Bay Packers. Shelvin and Reader need to find a way to make their lives either. While the onus isn’t completely on that duo, making contact with runners early can greatly help the cause. Certainly, a group that’s expected to star a pair of under-25 linebackers needs all the assistance they can get from the group up front.

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Tyler Shelvin Can Make The Bengals Free Agents and Fellow Rookies Look Like Even Stronger Investments

In a similar manner to assisting the linebacker, Shelvin can help Cincinnati’s investments on the defensive line look better. In the past two drafts, the team brought in Akeem Davis-Gaither, Khalid Kareem, Joseph Ossai, Cameron Sample, and Wyatt Hubert to help spark the pass rush. Further, they’ve made free-agent investments in Trey Hendrickson, Mike Daniels, and Larry Ogunjobi to bring veteran firepower to the lacking line. Importantly, this team has to improve upon its league-worst 17 sacks in 2021, especially after losing team leader Carl Lawson

By sticking Shelvin in the middle, he frees up space for quicker defenders to hunt running backs on the edge. For players like Sam Hubbard, Hendrickson, and Ossai in particular, this is fantastic news. Again, it’s a heavy task to put on the 22-year-old Shelvin, but it’s something that could be in his wheelhouse. It just depends on how quickly he develops through the team’s training camp process. Given that the organization is seeing team-wide participation early in the pre-season process, things look good for Shelvin. Regardless, he’ll need to keep proving his worth by making his teammates look better.

While The Expectations Are High From the Jump, Shelvin’s Future in Cincinnati Look Bright

When the Cincinnati Bengals snagged Shelvin in the fourth round, it almost immediately seemed like a steal. Adding fuel to the fire, Tyler Shelvin was allegedly a coveted prospect by New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In his first year, he could prove his worth as a long-term fixture on the defensive line. There’s no doubt that the organization would be thrilled if they’ve found a modern Vince Wilfork for their defense. Certainly, some development, especially in the pass-defending game, is needed to help Shelvin reach his ceiling. For now, it’s up to defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and defensive line coach Marion Hobby to get the most out of Shelvin.

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