Derek Stingley Jr. broke on the football cleanly while shadowing veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks, arriving just a tad too late to deflect the pass.
Overall, it was an encouraging training camp performance from the Texans' rookie cornerback, first-round draft pick and former LSU All-American selection. Stingley, whose activity is being ramped up incrementally before he participates in full-team drills because he underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot that limited him to three games last season for the Tigers, looked explosive and sure-footed in his movements. He covered ground quickly, backpedaling and cutting with confidence. He looked as advertised as the third overall pick during 7 on 7 drills. He also caught a few punts during special-teams work.
Texans veteran cornerback Steven Nelson mentioned that Stingley intercepted a pass this week during a practice that was closed to the media.
Although the Texans won't have Stingley practice every time during training camp toward the goal of having him play every game as a shutdown corner assigned to cover opponents' most dangerous wide receivers, they are upbeat about his outlook. And Texans coach Lovie Smith anticipates Stingley being ready to go for the first game of the regular season against the Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Matt Ryan.
"Yes, I do," Smith said. "Whenever a player is coming out with a major injury, this ramp-up period, that's what it's for. We're going to ease him into it. He's healthy, seeing him run around. We had him doing a few plays. He's got in some plays each day. He's on schedule."
The Texans limited Smith to individual drills during organized team activities and minicamp, but they're excited about his potential and they aren't worried about his medical outlook.
"Derek's status has been what it has been from the beginning," Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. "He's out here working. Derek's attitude has been good. He's gotten some really good work in here over the last five to six weeks. He's been able to get some work done here in the last few days as well. We're not speculating about what a player can and can't do.
"Derek has done a lot of stuff. Some of his testing stuff and metrics are better than anybody else. I wouldn't necessarily say he's limited. There are just certain things he hasn't experienced yet that he's going to have to go through. Like any player, you have to re-acclimate the body and the mind."
At 6-foot, 190 pounds, with 4.37 speed in the 40-yard dash, Stingley has speed to burn. The Texans identified him as the top cornerback on their draft board, and thus, selected him one pick before the New York Jets drafted Cincinnati All-American corner Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner fourth overall. Then, Stingley signed a fully guaranteed, four-year, $34.6 million contract that includes a $22.3 million signing bonus and a fifth-year club option.
"Great start," Nelson said of Stingley's early returns. "It's limitless to me. His potential is through the roof."
A former freshman All-American and two-time All-SEC selection, Stingley is a former five-star, blue-chip recruit who finished his college career with 73 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.
"Stingley got that demeanor," Cooks said. "He reminds me of a guy 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."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.