Texans' DeMeco Ryans can't wait to coach Stingley Jr., Pitre, Harris

DeMeco Ryans took notice of Derek Stingley Jr. during the scouting process as the former LSU consensus All-American blazed a trail to the third overall pick of the draft.

Stingley Jr. displayed speed, explosiveness and technique, prompting Texans general manager Nick Caserio to draft him in the first round.

Now, Ryans gets to coach Stingley after an injury-shortened rookie season during which he didn’t allow a touchdown pass and recorded 43 tackles, one interception, five passes defended and one sack in nine games before being placed on injured reserve with a strained hamstring. Stingley, under former coach Lovie Smith, was utilized in a lot of zone-based coverage schemes. That is likely to change under Ryans’ system, though, as he’ll work to use Stingley’s skills to their full advantage.

“That’s what excites me the most is being able to work with young guys and young guys who are talented,” Ryans said during his introductory press conference. Stingley has outstanding talent. Scouted him the last year, and I know the talent that he has. I know the competitor that he is. Going to put him in position to make a lot of plays for us. Put him in a position where he can excel and showcase his talents.”

Texans safety Jalen Pitre had a mostly stellar rookie season. The second-round draft pick from Baylor, a former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, led the Texans with 147 tackles and five interceptions.

“Seeing Jalen Pitre, loved him coming out of Baylor,” Ryans said. “Loved the blitzing, loved just the play speed of Pitre. Just to see him come out this past year and five interceptions, the way he attacked the ball, man. Jalen, we got to continue to do that. We’ve got to continue to take the ball away.

Pitre recorded the most tackles among all NFL rookies and became the first player to record more than 125 tackles and intercept five passes since the tackle statistic began being tracked in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“I look back and I say it was a great year,” Pitre said. “I got a great number of turnovers and I think I was very impactful for the defense. Looking forward, I want to do a lot more and I want to be able to bring a lot more guys and help the team a lot more. That’s what I’m focused on going forward and I think we’re going to continue to improve.”

Drafted in the third round out of Alabama, the same alma mater as Ryans, a former Texans second-round draft pick, Pro Bowl linebacker and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, linebacker Christian Harris had 74 tackles, one interception and a sack in 12 games and 11 starts after being activated from injured reserve after recovering from a hamstring injury. Harris is incredibly fast for a linebacker with 4.4 speed.

Ryans, a former linebackers coach with the 49ers, had a lot of success developing linebackers, including All-Pro Fred Warner, a former third-round draft pick in San Francisco, and Dre Greenlaw.

“Christian, fast, physical linebacker,” Ryans said. “Those are the type of players we can build around. So that does excite me when you have the young talent that we have here. I’m most encouraged by seeing a player whether it’s a Fred Warner or Dre Greenlaw, guys I’ve worked with who when people say, ‘Oh, they’re not that good.’ Right. ‘They’re not good enough.’

‘That excites me the most because I know what it takes. It just takes time. It takes belief. It takes pouring everything you have into a young man like a Fred Warner, who a third-round pick, no one thought he could play middle linebacker, but I saw something in him, I saw a leader, I saw a guy who loved football, and I saw a guy who truly just allowed me to coach him. I coached him hard sometimes. It’s a fine line. I coach them hard and love them hard. Now to say that he is the best linebacker in the NFL, I pride myself in that.”

Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio emphasized Ryans’ instrumental role in developing Warner.

“You did that, and you enjoy doing that, and you embrace it,” McNair said. “That’s one of the things we talked about, Nick, is he really embraced developing young talent, understanding who the player is and bringing out the best in them. That’s what he did in San Fran, and that’s what we’re looking forward to him doing here.”

The 49ers’ defense had multiple undrafted free agents that Ryans and the rest of the coaching staff developed and brought along.

“When you look at their defense, nine of 11 players were undrafted that are starters, and there were some players look at ( All-Pro safety Talanoa) Hufanga,” Caserio said. “He had some strengths, and DeMeco and I talked about this. We were going through some analysis of players. He had some things he did well, and there were some other things quite frankly, that were questionable, but DeMeco was able to find ways to utilize his strengths and what he did well. Now, he is an All-Pro or Pro Bowl player.

“Those are the things when you look at coaching that are important to us in terms of developing players. Coaching is teaching, it’s leading, it’s connecting and developing. When you look at that criteria, then DeMeco believes in those principles, so when we kind of look at our team, look, those are things that are going to be important. What you have to figure out is how do we accentuate the strengths, get the most out of our players? There’s a multitude of examples that DeMeco has had experience in San Francisco, and you see it tangibly on the field. I would say that’s something that we’re certainly excited about as we kind of think about what our team is going to look like next year.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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