When I wrote my roster battles series about the cornerback position for the Chicago Bears, I had 2019 6th-round draft pick Duke Shelley in my “roster lock” category. Reason being, his ability to back up at both nickle corner and safety gave him more value to the team. But with the recent pick up of veteran safety/nickle/special teamer Marqui Christian, I started to rethink my take on their secondary.
And then I came across The Athletic’s roster bubble article where Adam Jahns specifically questions Shelly’s place on the 2020 roster. Jahns’ is usually on the money with speculation like this, so there’s likely some weight to it.
“What do you do with nickel back Duke Shelley, a 2019 sixth-round pick, after Kindle Vildor was drafted in the fifth round this year? Secondary coach Deshea Townsend sounded enamored with Vildor.”
Townsend recently met the media and when Vildor’s name came up he said, “As far as the type of guy he is, he is a Bear guy.”
“He is a true competitor — the way that he asks questions in meetings, the things that he wants to know, it just shows that he’s a competitor,” Townsend added. “So I’m excited to see him get a chance to get out there and play.”
The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain also doubled down on Shelley’s status being in doubt.
“Cornerback is probably the most compelling spot from a roster bubble standpoint because we’ve got some players with a little name recognition. You would think Vildor’s draft cachet protects his roster status.”
“I’m old enough to remember when Shelley made a ton of plays in camp, and he is the only other true nickel corner of the group, which could help him (unless Vildor proves he can handle the slot).”
The Bears do plan to try Vildor out at nickle, plus he has the size advantage over Shelley (5’11”, 190 to 5’8”, 183), which gives him some roster flexibility as well with his ability to compete in the slot and at outside corner.
If the Bears do cut Shelley, and if he clears waivers, he’ll probably find a spot on Chicago’s 16-man practice squad to keep working on his game.
A similar situation played out in 2017 when the Bears released their 6th-round pick from 2016, DeAndre Houston-Carson, only to bring him back to the practice squad. He worked his way back to the active roster in just a few weeks and he’s played in 40 games for the Bears since then.