Film Review: Duke Shelley first start with Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The first start for Duke Shelley with the Chicago Bears was up and down

After nearly two seasons, the Chicago Bears got to see their sixth round pick play real defensive football. Duke Shelley was drafted to compete with Buster Skrine in the slot, but with Skrine holding things down, Shelley has been watching and learning.

However, having Skrine down with a concussion, the team called upon Shelley to make the start. When setting the bar at a sixth-round pick making his first start, you have to be happy with the performance.

Shelley wound up playing 53 snaps, with 34 coming in coverage. According to PFF, he was charged with 50 yards. How did the performance look on video?

1 Down

He started the game allowing completion to Chad Hansen. The two are at the bottom of the play below. Shelley is playing press and is leveraging him to the sideline. He initially does well in this play and is physical as they meet at the top of the route.

However, Hansen is able to swipe his arm through and cross over Shelley to gain space to the inside. This resulted in 11 yards and a first down.

1 Good

Later in the game, Shelley is playing off coverage a bit. Once again he is physical at the catch point. However, in this play, he squares his hips to the inside of the field but immediately turns as the two make contact, which keeps him in balance and helps him re-group as he runs to the sidelines. Overall, both plays can speak to some physicality that he is not afraid to display.


We will not know for sure if this is an issue on Shelley, but as 16, and 11 both run at Jaylon Johnson and Shelley, both stick with 16, and 11 runs open into the open field. Fortunately, DeShaun Watson is looking the other way and when he does see his open man, the pressure got there.

However, you can see that Johnson is pointing out to Shelley that he needs to go follow that receiver. It may have been a mental error here.

2 Up

The play below is strong work out of the slot. We know that DeShaun Watson is a player who lives off-script. Shelley immediately shuts down his man. First, he does, a good job of passing off the first receiver and sticking to his assignment. Then, as the play does break down, Shelley once again can flip his hips and follow his man up the field.

You can see that as Watson scrambled, he could have hit him off-script, but Shelley was far too close and had great coverage, well beyond three seconds after the snap.

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3 Down

Duke Shelley had been physical at the top of routes for most of the game. That is what makes the play below frustrating. He fills the gap and is ready to take on Duke Johnson down hill. However, Chad Hansen comes in and blocks Shelley, shoving him out of the way to seal a hole.

Skrine has struggled in coverage, but he has been great in short areas and shooting tight gaps like the play below. He would blow this play up. Shelley was in the right spot, and this helps. However, he was passive and waited for the back to come to him. In the future, he will learn to shoot this gap with speed and tenacity and get into the backfield so that he cannot get chipped like that.

Up 3

As noted, his lack of physicality was surprising in the play above considering the rest of his game. Below, he made up for it with a strong tackle in space. The quick flare was a check down. However, Shelley is in the zone and does not lose eyes on the quarterback despite the receiver entering his lane.

He identifies the check down and this time does play downhill rather than waiting for the action to come to him. As you can see the sticks on the sideline, he stops a play short of the first down.

Down Four

By the looks of everyone else on this play, Duke Shelley is in man coverage on tight end Darren Fells. As Fells cuts over the middle of the field, Shelley is a bit passive and is sitting back. iT almost looks like he wants to stay in zone and not leave his side of the field.

You can see that Eddie Jackson notices that Fells got separation and immediately crashed down over the middle of the field. Both players have eyes on Fells, and at that point, both had the same responsibility. In this play you can see the difference in instincts between Shelley and Jackson. As time goes on, Shelley will identify routes based on players, personnel and situations, and be in a better position to pounce on routes.

Up 4

We started down, so we will end with a positive. Below may have been his best play of the game. This time, Shelley is not passive over the middle. This time, Shelley identifies the route and attacks the ball. It results in a pass deflection and celebration with Khalil Mack.

Shelley knows that he has Mack underneath, but he does not play too far back to miss attacking the ball and breaking it up.

For every down, you could find some growth throughout the game. That is what you are looking for from a player as young and inexperienced as Shelley.

With Skrine in the concussion protocol, there is no telling how long he will be out. Jaylon Johnson is banged up as well, and that may mean that we will get to see Shelley build off of his first start. There will be plenty to look for in start two.