Season Derailed for Fabled Former Viking

Alex Gallardo-USA TODAY Sports.

Seven weeks ago, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson was set on the IR shelf with a hamstring injury.

Now that injury has beset a folkloric former Viking, cornerback Duke Shelley of the Los Angeles Rams

Season Derailed for Fabled Former Viking

Shelley injured his hamstring last weekend, and the Rams’ social media team tweeted Tuesday, “Coach McVay says DB Quentin Lake is not expected to return vs. Browns; DB Duke Shelley placed on Injured Reserve.”

Season Derailed
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

The ex-Vikings defender will miss the next four games, eligible to return on New Year’s Eve against the New York Giants or, more realistically, in the postseason if Los Angeles travels that far. The Rams have a 36.0% chance of reaching the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

Shelley joined the Rams in September after the Las Vegas Raiders said sayonara to the 27-year-old around the roster-trimdown deadline. He’s played 11 games in Los Angeles, starting none, and seen action on 76 defensive plays and 190 special teams snaps.

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.

Unfortunately for his sake, his 2023 campaign pales in comparison to last year. To date this season, Shelley has registered a 42.5 Pro Football Focus grade, ranking near the bottom of the league among CBs and a far departure from an 81.5 score with the Vikings in 2022. In short, Shelley’s masterful performance as a Viking might’ve been a one-hit-wonder.

The veteran defender 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.

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Duke Shelley (26) celebrates a fumble recovery against the Green Bay Packers during their football game Sunday, November 5, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

The Vikings said goodbye last offseason to CBs Shelley, Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Kris Boyd, and Dantzler while onboarding veteran free agents Byron Murphy and Joejuan Williams, plus rookie Mekhi Blackmon from the 2023 NFL Draft

As for Los Angeles, these are the Rams’ cornerbacks without Shelley for the next four games:

  • Ahkello Witherspoon
  • Derion Kendrick
  • Quentin Lake (injured)
  • Tre Tomlinson
  • Cobie Durant
  • Shaun Jolly (PS)
  • Cameron McCutcheon (PS)
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Interestingly, the Raiders released cornerback Marcus Peters on Monday, and he previously played for the Rams. Peters could end up back in Los Angeles or perhaps latch onto a contending team for 2023’s home stretch.

The Rams’ defense ranks 21st per DVOA through 12 weeks.

Los Angeles and Green Bay, in particular, are two teams nipping at the Vikings’ heels for playoff positioning and the reason Minnesota must finish 3-2 in the next five games to reach the postseason.


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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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