HOUSTON – Shadowing Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce step for step, Derek Stingley Jr. read the play perfectly.
Stingley was aware that he needed to guard the perimeter should Colts veteran quarterback Matt Ryan try and fire in a high lob pass. Mirroring Pierce’s movements, Stingley redirected his trail technique to react when Pierce broke his route inside.
The Texans’ rookie cornerback, first-round draft pick and former LSU consensus All-American did what comes naturally to him. He broke crisply on the football and swiped his hand to bat away Ryan’s throw in the long run zone for an incompletion.
“It was a little bit tight, so I knew he was probably going to do something outside,” Stingley said. “I attempted to remain outside leverage. He just took it back in. I just followed him. The ball was thrown and I made a play on the ball.”
It was a reasonably smooth debut for the third overall pick of the draft in his first NFL regular-season game, a 20-20 tie to the Colts. He had seven tackles, three solos and the one pass defensed.
Stingley looked comfortable in all situations and was his usual low-key self in discussing his performance.
“I feel it was good,” he said. “I did my job.”
Fully recovered from a Lisfranc foot injury that required surgery, the Baton Rouge, La. native remained patient through a lengthy ramp-up process before making his NFL preseason debut against the Los Angeles Rams and deflected a pass intended for wide receiver Landen Akers.
Stingley said he continues to enjoy and absorb the moment of being within the NFL, realizing his childhood dream.
“I used to be saying that just about every play,” Stingley said.
The Texans’ defense had its moments against Ryan, including defensive end Jerry Hughes intercepting him once.
They did allow wide receiver Michael Pittman to catch nine passes for 121 yards on 13 targets with one touchdown. A lot of the damage the Colts’ offense inflicted was within the fourth quarter as they got here back from a 20-3 deficit to send the sport into extra time.
“I mean you look back on it and learn return and have a look at the film and see what we will get well at,” Stingley said. “You possibly can see everybody flying around. One thing we’re going to do is give effort.”
At 6′0″, 190 kilos, with a recorded 4.37 40-yard dash, Stingley has speed to burn. The Texans identified him as the highest cornerback on their draft board and thus, chosen him one pick before the Latest York Jets drafted Cincinnati All-American corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Then, Stingley signed a totally guaranteed, four-year, $34.6 million contract that features a $22.3 million signing bonus and a fifth-year club option.
“Stingley got that demeanor,” said Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who recurrently stays after practice for extra work mentoring Stingley. “He jogs my memory of a man that I played with. Not going to say any names, but that guy was special. Quiet guy, come out here and he’s about business.”
The early reviews on Stingley have been extremely positive. The Texans regard the Louisiana native as advertised.
“Just cut on the tape,” Texans cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso said. “He’s big. He can run. He’s fluid. He’s explosive. He’s got great feet. He doesn’t really have a glaring weakness in his game. The traits, you could possibly see that in individual drills. You could possibly see that.”
Vasso emphasized that the mental aspect is one other area where Stingley shines. He’s considered a student of the sport with a thirst for knowledge about every aspect of football.
“We’re just excited concerning the player, mentally,” Vasso said. “He’s extremely conscientious. He’s got a football mind that’s consistently working. He desires to know why we’re doing things. He desires to know the inner workings of why we do things, and I can appreciate that.”
A two-time All-SEC selection, Stingley is a former five-star recruit who finished his college profession with 73 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
Each Stingley and rookie safety Jalen Pitre (11 tackles) performed well as starters of their first NFL game.
“I feel they play very well, first NFL football game,” Texans veteran corner Steven Nelson said. “I feel they flew around made some plays. Really exciting to see.”
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to KPRC 2 and click2houston.com
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