HOUSTON— houston texans rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.. he smiled as he recalled a remarkable introductory moment to the NFL.
It was third and goal in the absence of 10:53 against Indianapolis Colts in Week 1, with the Texans winning 20-3, and the rookie faced wide receiver alec pierce.
Pierce ran a route into the end zone and Stingley didn’t give him any room.
colts quarterback matt ryan he maneuvered into the pocket to buy extra time. Pierce cut inside and Ryan tried to make a pass. When the ball came, Stingley dove to full extension and deflected the pass. The local crowd erupted.
“That was like, ‘Oh wow, the crowd got rowdy,'” Stingley told ESPN. “I did that? That was great.”
Despite Stingley’s big play, the Colts pulled off a comeback in the fourth quarter. The game ended in a 20-20 tie.
But, during the first three weeks of Stingley’s career, he showed the ability that led the Texans to select him No. 3 overall in April. When quarterbacks have targeted Stingley, they have completed 44% of his throws, which ranks 23rd among defensive backs with at least 60 coverage snaps, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He also has three pass breakups and hasn’t allowed a touchdown.
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And Stingley’s first glimpses have come against three 1,000-yard receivers in Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos, Darnell Mooney of the Chicago Bears and Michael Pittman Jr. of the Colts.
But facing 1,000-yard receivers is nothing new for Stingley.
Dating back to Stingley’s standout freshman year at LSU in 2019, he faced future NFL players in the Los Angeles Rams’ Van Jefferson, Philadelphia Eagles’ DeVonta Smith, Denver Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy, Bengals’ Tee Higgins and Dallas Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb. .
Stingley even lined up against Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts for a few reps.
And who could forget Stingley’s daily battles against his former LSU teammates in Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings and Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals, both of whom have been named second-team All-Pro in the NFL.
That group features six first-round picks, eight players who have rushed for at least 800 yards in a single season and five who have reached 1,000 yards in a single season.
During that 2019 season, Stingley finished with six interceptions for the champions, who led the SEC and earned first-team AP All-America honors.
Stingley admitted that those battles “100%” helped him prepare for the NFL. He explains why he feels the adjustment hasn’t been too pronounced, even though he only played in three of LSU’s 13 games in 2021 after suffering a Lisfranc injury to his left foot.
During the 2020 season that was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Stingley missed three games (two with an ankle injury and one with illness) as LSU struggled, going 5-5 after capturing the title in 2019. .
“It’s been a minute since I got to [have fun] out there in the field,” Stingley said. “Even when I lose, it’s like, ‘OK, oh yeah, I remember that’s how you play this.’ So it’s great. It’s fun.”
The impressive part of Stingley’s college career was that many of those reruns featured him on an island.
“We were mostly a men’s coverage team, so he didn’t get much help,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda, who was LSU’s defensive coordinator in 2019, said one on one.
What helped prepare him for those matchups were battles with his teammates in practice. The “iron to iron” cliché players cling to about being pushed around by their teammates really applied to Stingley as he battled Jefferson and Chase on a daily basis.
The Bengals star recalled how practice with Stingley was “a good competition.”
“He knew all my tendencies,” Chase said. “So it was a good job going against him.”
He then added a brilliant scouting report on Stingley.
“He’s a complete playmaker,” Chase said. “He can make plays with the ball in the air. I feel like that’s one of the best things he does…I don’t know if you’re guessing, but his knowledge of the game is pretty high to say he was that young. He knew his routes were going into … It was definitely already well developed.”
Texans coach Lovie Smith agrees, as he wasted no time labeling Stingley the Texans’ number one corner.
“Derek Stingley is our only corner,” Smith said. “He’s going to be in that role for a lot of years. I love that he’s in that role. He’s an outstanding player and he’s going to be a great player as he progresses. We’ll have Steven [Nelson] as our second corner. He does some good things too. We need them both.
Next, Stingley will face another pair of 1,000-yard receivers in the Los Angeles Chargers’ Keenan Allen (though his status is questionable) and Mike Williams when the Texans (0-2-1) host the Chargers (1-2). . Sunday (1 pm ET, CBS) at NRG Stadium.
“[The NFL is] really the same. Not a big step up or anything,” Stingley said. “Obviously the speed is a little bit faster, but other than that, it’s not much different.”