Vikings 2022 Hero Hardly Playing with New Team

Nov 27, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Rams fans show their support against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

Former Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley has been a part of four NFL teams’ rosters since the start of 2022, including the Chicago Bears, Vikings, Las Vegas Raiders, and currently the Los Angeles Rams.

Vikings 2022 Hero Hardly Playing with New Team

And while the hero from the 2022 Vikings defense certainly thrived in Minnesota, he’s hardly playing for the Rams so far in 2023.

Hero Hardly Playing
Sep 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) Los Angeles Rams safety Russ Yeast (2) and cornerback Duke Shelley (26) talk after the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports.

Through two games in Los Angeles, a split for the Rams netting a win over the Seatle Seahawks and a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Shelley has not been on the field for a single defensive play. He’s intermixed in the Rams special teams a bit, but his true calling, playing cornerback, is a no-go for the veteran defender.

The Rams rank sixth leaguewide per yards allowed through two games played, so they’re not terribly in need of more contributions from reservist cornerbacks. But the Shelley bench role is noteworthy for Vikings fans because the man played so damn well in purple one year ago.

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) breaks up a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (18) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The veteran corner took over starter’s duties in Minnesota after injuries to Cameron Dantzler, Akayleb Evans, and Andrew Booth in 2022, and before too long, his emergence felt like a classic example of addition by subtraction. The man flourished inside Ed Donatell’s 2022 defense — to the tune of an 82.9 Pro Football Focus grade.

The Vikings said sayonara this offseason to CBs Shelley, Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Kris Boyd, and the aforementioned Dantzler while onboarding veteran free agents Byron Murphy and Joejuan Williams, plus rookie Mekhi Blackmon from the 2023 NFL Draft. Why Minnesota wouldn’t grant Shelley a sequel in 2023 will remain a mystery.

The Vikings 1 Standout
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) intercepts a pass intended for Chicago Bears wide receiver Chase Claypool (10) during the fourth quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

After Shelley departed the Vikings six months ago, he latched onto the Raiders roster, a team needing all the help it could get at cornerback. Then, however, roster trimdowns arrived last month, and Shelley was the odd man out, failing to make the active roster of a team viewed by many as one of the worst teams in the sport per CB depth.

Thankfully, Shelley joined the Rams soon after, and his playing-time outlook seemed optimistic. Through two games, though, it’s no cigar for the beloved ex-Viking.

1 Vikings Free Agent Wants to Come Back
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) signals an incompletion after breaking up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Instead, Sean McVay is utilizing Ahkello Witherspoon, Derion Kendrick, Cobie Durant, and Tre’Vius Tomlinson at cornerback.

The Vikings play the Rams again in 2024 at SoFi Stadium.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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