THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Coleman Shelton's experience at center last year came on short notice.
Starter Brian Allen went down with a knee injury on the first play of the game against the Jaguars in Week 13, abruptly pulling backup Shelton into action. Shelton performed well, and did so the following week against the Cardinals, too.
Collectively, it gave him a solid foundation to draw upon as he returns to that position this week against the Falcons, in wake of Allen being out 2-4 weeks after undergoing a knee procedure.
"It's just going out, and last year, it was kind of just taking advantage of the opportunity," Shelton said during a video conference Monday morning. "Now I got that experience, and I'm able to go out and just have confidence in my play, and go out there and give it my all."
The position isn't brand new to Shelton.
While he was repping at right guard, he played center in college, starting all 27 games there across his junior and senior seasons at the University of Washington.
According to Pro Football Focus, Shelton was stout as both a run-blocker and pass-blocker. He didn't allow a single pressure on three-step dropbacks during the 2017 season, according to Pro Football Focus, tied for the fewest among draft-eligible centers. Furthermore, he he graded out No. 7 among that same group in run block success percentage at 91.1.
"It's like having a coach on the field," said offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum Jr., who is slated to take over next to Shelton at right guard with Shelton moving to center. "The guy's incredibly smart. He's super athletic. He's very technical. The guy thinks three, four steps ahead. I think having him on my team playing next to him has been such an advantage for me. Just being able to soak up information from him like a sponge, being able to watch his techniques because Coleman is not the heaviest guy. But when Coleman is out there and he's playing, he's sharp on his technique. He's very diligent with body positions, he's always in the right positions, and you can really take a lot from that when you take how he looks at the game."
Shelton's performance against the Jaguars last season earned praise from Rams head coach Sean McVay, who lauded Shelton's toughness and steadiness in the run game and the pass game, as well as his communication and command.
He'll be asked to do it again while Allen gets healthy, and his teammates are confident he'll get it done.
"It's sad what happened to Brian, but we're going to be just fine with Coleman at center," Anchrum Jr. said.