Texans rookie Derek Stingley Jr. displays talent in NFL debut

INGLEWOOD, Calif.  -- Derek Stingley Jr. flipped his hips, retreating adeptly in pass coverage to shadow Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Landen Akers on a pass pattern.

Stingley planted his cleats and redirected to charge on the football and smoothly deflected a throw from backup quarterback John Wolford.

"I was really just reading the quarterback," Stingley said after the game inside the Texans' locker room. "I felt good out there."

The first-round draft pick from LSU, the third overall selection, and former freshman All-American and blue-chip recruit flashed his skills during his NFL preseason debut Friday night as he started against the defending Super Bowl champion Rams during a 24-20 victory at SoFi Stadium.

Although Stingley was playing against a backup instead of starter Matthew Stafford and star wide receiver Cooper Kupp was watching on the sidelines, he nonetheless looked as advertised against the Rams in three defensive series. 

The Texans have been ramping up Stingley's activity level, bringing him along cautiously due to a previous Lisfranc foot injury. Stingley showed what he's already displayed in practice: his foot is fine, and he's ready for the season, as general manager Nick Caserio and coach Lovie Smith had predicted. 

"It felt good, I felt good out there," Stingley Jr. said. "I was excited to get back. It was good. I'm glad I was able to be out there. It felt good going out there on the field. I was just ready to be out there. I feel good, but there's always stuff you can work on, any position, any player on the field.

"I think there's always more you can learn and more that you can do going into the next practice. That's what I did. I always have fun."

There was one rough moment for Stingley against talented Rams wide receiver Lance McCutcheon. In the first quarter, Stingley surrendered too much room on a slick route by McCutcheon for a 22-yard catch.

"It wasn't nothing," Stingley said. "It was just a play."

Overall, though, it was a solid start for the Texans' top rookie.

At 6'0", 190 pounds, with a recorded 4.37 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. 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.

The Texans followed a disciplined, ramp-up approach with Stingley with a concerted plan to get him through the entire season.

"I mean, I think it was the best thing that could have happened," Stingley said. "Obviously, I wanted to be out there way sooner. They know what they're doing. Everyone involved with the Texans, they know what they're doing." 

A two-time All-SEC selection, Stingley is a former five-star recruit who finished his college career with 73 tackles, seven tackles for loss, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. 

“The plan was to get him 10 plays, so I think he got 15 plays," Smith said. "That’s out of the way. We’ll keep increasing his minutes. He’s a good football player.” 

Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and contributor to Sports Talk 790.

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Rams

Photo: Getty Images

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