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If Derion Kendrick misses time, Rams should have trust in reserve corners

Derion Kendrick arrested and could be disciplined by NFL soon; Duke Shelley, Tre Tomlinson are next men up at CB

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams CB Derion Kendrick was arrested Sunday evening just hours following the team’s Week 6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Kendrick was pulled over for a traffic violation when police found a gun in his car—he received a felony charged of carrying a concealed weapon. A felony generally means the offense is punishable by imprisonment of at least one year and are the most serious category of crimes. It remains to be seen what action the NFL league office will take in regards to Kendrick’s arrest, but it’s reasonable to assume that measures will be taken in response to the news.

While the off-field news is troubling for the second-year cornerback, we can only speculate what comes next on-field for the Rams.

Next up at corner are veteran Duke Shelley—who played well in Ahkello Witherspoon’s absence in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles—and rookie Tre Tomlinson. Tomlinson impressed over the preseason even when matched up against former TCU teammate Quentin Johnston, who was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Shelley entered the NFL in 2019 with the Chicago Bears where he played three seasons mostly as a slot corner. He moved outside when he joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2022 and that was a position change that altered the course of his career—Shelley was the fifth-highest graded corner in terms of defensive PFF grade that season. The veteran signed with the Las Vegas Raiders during the offseason free agency period but was released during final roster cuts—where the Rams wisely scooped him up.

It’s possible that we remember Shelley’s encouraging 2022 performance as a one-year wonder; however, in his first defensive appearance for LA he managed an impressive 84.9 defensive grade from PFF over nine snaps against the Eagles. Shelley also got on the field late this past weekend against the Cardinals after the score was out of hand and the Rams pulled their starters. The veteran was targeted by Josh Dobbs three times where he broke up a pass and allowed just one completion for nine yards.

Tomlinson is another player that was seemingly pigeon-holed through the draft process as a slot player but has since only played on the perimeter since being selected by Los Angeles in the sixth round. The Rams have a history of leaving slight-framed corners on the outside despite conventional thinking, and it’s an approach that’s paid off with Darious Williams and seems to be benefitting Shelley and Tomlinson.

Over three preseason games Tomlinson was targeted seven times and allowed just two receptions (28.6% completion) for 16 yards with two pass breakups. Also encouraging is the fact he had six tackle opportunities over the exhibition games and did not miss once—a promising sign for a player listed at 5-8, 180 lbs.

If Kendrick misses time in the near future, I think it’s reasonable to expect Shelley to be the next man up on the defensive right side opposite Witherspoon. Tomlinson has been impressive at times, but the coaching staff seems reluctant to force him into action—though that could change as we get further into the season.