All eyes were on cornerback in this year’s free agency, with the open market housing names such James Bradberry, Byron Murphy and Jamel Dean. Fans were enamored by name-value, focusing on the popular players while shooting down those who aren’t household names. You know how it goes; if fans have heard of the player before, they beg for their team to sign them, regardless of the cost or [lack of] scheme fit. If they haven’t, backlash is rearing its ugly head. Unfortunately, the latter best describes how some of Raider Nation is reacting to David Long and Duke Shelley signing with the Las Vegas Raiders.
And it’s simply not justified.
When you have dreams of walking away from free agency with a pre-established All-Pro cornerback, sure, such signings are bound to dampen your spirits. If you’re interested in adding legitimate pieces to a defense, however, David Long and Duke Shelley are players to be excited about.
Here’s the rundown on the Raiders two newest defensive backs.
Las Vegas Raiders welcome David Long, Duke Shelley to defensive backfield
13 months ago, the Los Angeles Rams ended the ’21 season as Super Bowl champions after defeating Cincinnati. Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp and first-year Rams’ QB Matthew Stafford all played key roles in the team’s success, but there were certainly other notable contributors. Quietly, David Long played a big part.
During the regular season, Long allowed a completion percentage of only 65.1% when targeted. This number was a mere 1.7% away from tying Jalen Ramsey with the lowest among all defensive backs on the team. Long also joined both Ramsey and Robert Rochell as the only Rams’ cornerbacks to allow a quarterback rating below 100.
The postseason is where things got real.
No cornerback on the team had a coverage grade better than Long’s 69.3., and for good reason. Aside from his 65% completion percentage allowed, the Michigan alum allowed a passer rating of 51.9 when targeted. This was not only the lowest among cornerbacks on the team but was the second-lowest among all cornerbacks in the playoffs (min. two targets). Fun Raider fact – this was only the second-lowest among all playoff corners because Casey Hayward posted the first-lowest.
In the Super Bowl, Long was once again putting up team-highs. Not only was his 83.3 QB rating the lowest on the team, but so was his 8.2 coverage snaps per reception allowed.
With 500 total coverage snaps throughout the regular and postseason combined, David Long was on the field often. He was often victorious in his matchups as well.
Duke Shelley joins David Long as the new additions to the Raiders’ defensive backfield. You might not have heard the name, but you’ll be plenty familiar with it soon enough.
Less known, not less skilled
The Minnesota Vikings allowed the second-most passing yards in 2022 (4,515), allowing more first downs through the air than any other club. Every cornerback on the team allowed a passer rating of over 108 when targeted, as well as a completion percentage above 68%, except two: Patrick Peterson, and Duke Shelley.
Among all Vikings’ defensive backs in 2022, Shelley allowed the lowest passer rating (57.9), lowest completion percentage (48.8%), while posting the highest coverage grade (84.9) and highest forced incompletion percentage (27%).
These numbers aren’t only elite in comparison to Vikings’ DBs, but defensive backs league wide.
Across the league, Shelley’s 57.9 passer rating ranked sixth among corners and 14th when including all defensive backs. His 48.8 completion percentage ranked seventh at corner and 13th among all DBs, and his 27% forced incompletions tied for first in the entire NFL at any position with Sauce Gardner (min. 10 targets).
Perhaps more impressive than the numbers themselves is how Shelley earned them. The former Viking held his own against tight ends and wideouts, typically on the outside. Shelley broke up passes to names such as Christian Watson, Michael Pittman, Elijah Moore, Dawson Knox and Tyler Conklin.
Once the playoffs came around, the dominance continued. Shelley notched the highest coverage grade among all defensive backs on the team (74.9), along with the lowest completion percentage (50%) and lowest quarterback rating (77.1). He was able to do this while lining up as a cornerback more than any other Viking, tallying 67 snaps at the position.
With 449 snaps as an outside corner last season, ‘The Duke’ proved he has legitimate CB1 potential. Now, he’ll look to take the next step with the Raiders.
*Top Photo: Isaiah Vazquez – Getty Images