New York Giants defensive tackle Danny Shelton (75) talks to...

New York Giants defensive tackle Danny Shelton (75) talks to defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence II (97) and Austin Johnson (98) as they walk off the field after practice during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ, on Friday, Jul 30, 2021. Credit: Brad Penner

Listed at 6-2 and 345 pounds, Danny Shelton has trouble fitting into a lot of spaces.

The Giants’ defensive line room is not one of them.

A newcomer to the group who signed in the offseason as part of the Giants’ effort to replace Dalvin Tomlinson, who left in free agency, Shelton has quickly become a full-fledged member of the unit.

"It’s not like an intruder came in," said fellow lineman Dexter Lawrence, a third-year player and the longest-serving Giant at the position. "It’s kind of like he just fits like a puzzle piece was put in."

And that is before anyone on the team has even played a full-speed down with pads on in practice. Before Shelton has been able to show anyone on the Giants what he can do to help them win.

So far, all he’s been able to show them is . . . himself.

Coach Joe Judge worked with Shelton when they were together with the Patriots — they won the Super Bowl together in the 2018 season — and knew the type of person he was signing.

"[He] comes in every day with a huge smile," Judge said. "Nice guy. Loves life."

Jovial and fun-loving may not sound like traits one looks for in a player whose main task is to manhandle offensive linemen, obliterate running backs and crush the pocket on quarterbacks. Snarls would seem to be a better predictor of success in that world than grins. Angry, blood-thirsty eyes might be preferable to cheerful ones.

But on the Giants, the entire defensive line is pretty much made up of such carefree and chill personalities. Lawrence and Leonard Williams, the two returning starters for the crew, set the tone in that regard. They hit it off almost immediately when Williams first joined the Giants in 2019 in a midseason trade with the Jets.

Now they have Shelton to add to what may be the happiest position room in the building.

"That’s a group that’s really fun to coach," Judge said.

A fairly decorated one as well. With Lawrence, Williams and Shelton, the Giants could have a defensive front that boasts three first-round picks. Williams is a Pro Bowler who led the Giants in sacks last year. Shelton was a Super Bowl champ with New England. And Lawrence may have a higher ceiling than either of them.

What’s not to smile about?

They may be the Jolly Blue Giants, but they do know when it’s time to get a little nasty.

"Our room has a lot of talent and a lot of guys who want to work," Shelton said. "I think that’s what makes our room fun is that we’re constantly competing and wanting to be better, wanting to grow."

Shelton played for the Lions last year but missed four games with a knee injury and tore his triceps in the regular-season finale.

"It’s been a different offseason for me," he said. "I had my injury obviously and had to go through rehab and go through being released and picked up by the Giants. It’s a new experience for me, but a great learning opportunity."

Now he’s healed and ready to go. All 345 pounds of him, a massive frame that stretches the 7 and 5 on the back of his jersey as if there is a digit missing between them.

"He’s obviously a big, athletic man," Judge said, raving about his performance in the pre-camp conditioning tests. "You see a guy with that size run the way he did and work through the summer on some of the things he had to overcome . . .

"This guy has really changed his body throughout his career. I mean a lot of big guys accept being big. We try to impress on all 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."

If it’s anything close to how he fits in with his teammates, Shelton’s smile may wind up becoming the official facial expression of the whole team.

More Giants


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months