Amidst the roar of Dameon Pierce’s NFL record tackle breaking performance the Houston Texans first round draft pick, Derek Stingley Jr. caught his first NFL interception against Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Derek Stingley today:— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 9, 2022
• 7 TOT
• 2 PD
• 1 INT
The Texans rookie CB made his presence FELT against the Jaguars pic.twitter.com/LbnyvZ1ZW9
It feels like everyone has been waiting for this sort of performance from Stingley. Sure Pierce is phenomenal and rookie safety Jalen Pitre came to ball out. But Sting has not been living up to the hype as the #1 cornerback taken off the draft board.
Overall Rookie Grade: 50.4 (Rank: 22/33)
Principal Opponent: Marvin Jones Jr.
Week 5 Snaps: 74
Stingley snagged a key interception in the end zone after Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence tried to force a pass that wasn’t really on, and he also broke up a critical pass on Jacksonville’s final drive. Overall, he allowed six catches for 97 yards into his coverage from nine targets, but his positive plays were important ones.
That’s right, PFF.com has Sting rated as 22nd best rookie out of the 33 first rounders. That’s a major >ouch< for a rebuilding franchise that spent the third overall pick on him. Especially with the choice of players at several other positions of need. And, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner on the board as well. Until the New York Jets took him with the very next pick.
Overall Rookie Grade: 67.3 (Rank: 10/33)
Principal Opponent: Jaylen Waddle
Week 5 Snaps: 67
Gardner’s hit on Teddy Bridgewater‘s first dropback knocked the veteran out of the game, forcing the Miami Dolphins to turn to seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson through the air. Gardner took advantage by allowing three catches for 26 yards into his coverage and picking off one of the targets for an interception.
Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, selected fifth overall by the New York Giants, is currently ranked third among all rookies.
And, when you compare Stingley to the entire rookie cornerback class, it’s not looking all that favorable either.
Derek Stingley has allowed 290 receiving yards through four weeks.— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 4, 2022
• 2nd most among rookie CB’s
• 4th most among all CB’s pic.twitter.com/uvuN6DpD1i
NFL teams swing and miss on first round draft picks every single year. The Texans, since the departure of former GM Rick Smith, seem to have made a habit of consistently doing it. So, did they waste a pick on Stingley Jr.?
He certainly has talent, skill and drive. However, he’s yet to strike enough fear into any opposing quarterback the way Charles Woodson or Deion Sanders did when they were rooks. Now, that might seem like an unfair comparison, but Woodson was taken by the Oakland Raiders with the fourth pick in the 1988 draft. Sanders was the fifth overall pick the following year.
With that in mind, it’s not “unfair” to expect Stingley to perform near the level of those two perennial Pro Bowlers. With high draft pick comes great expectations, as it were...
And, in some areas, Sting has delivered:
Derek Stingley Jr. has not missed a tackle on 24 opportunities this season— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) October 11, 2022
-- tied for best among NFL defensive backs. via @IE_NFL
Stingley is a solid tackler for sure. Where things get a little wonky is in those moments where coaching fades and instinct kicks in.
For example, this is not the sort of decision making you would expect from a Pro-Bowl cornerback:
Derek Stingley gets his first NFL interception pic.twitter.com/gJgwRRHTMx— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) October 9, 2022
An interception eight yards deep in Houston’s own end zone sounds like the makings of a huge return. In this case however, Stingley had no clear path forward. There were five Jacksonville Jaguars in the vicinity and multiple Texans unprepared to react to the pick. A wily player would have taken a knee for the touchback to give his offense the ball at the 25-yard line. Instead, Stingley’s mind turned to personal glory over the team’s best interests.
In comparison, watch what Desmond King does with the game on the line after he picks off Trevor Lawrence.
Now, a rookie making his first interception? Dreams of grandeur and touchdowns dance in their heads for sure. In fact, the aforementioned Woodson’s first interception was a pick six.
However, Woodson had a clear path straight to the end zone with no opposing team member between him and the goal line. In hindsight, Stingley most likely knows he should have sat down in the end zone and then taken the ball to his dad. And, giving the ball to his dad was pretty cool, BTW.
Stingley currently has 30 combined tackles, 24 solo stops, five passes defensed, one sack and one interception. He’s also given up 25 catches, tied for fourth most in the league.
A deeper dive reveals that pressure from the front seven is a rookie cornerback’s best friend. And the Texans front seven is one J.J. Watt short of being, well, one J.J. Watt. In other words, they’re not striking fear in the heart of any quarterback not named Blake Bortles.
So that makes Stingley’s job that much harder. And, he’s also running in a zone scheme where cornerback stats are often deceiving.
At least while Stingley is getting up to NFL speed, his counterparts are picking up some of the slack for him.
Highest graded Texans in Week 5 win vs Jaguars:— PFF HOU Texans (@PFF_Texans) October 10, 2022
Desmond King II - 84.9
Christian Kirksey - 77.7
Nico Collins - 77.0
4️⃣ Laremy Tunsil - 76.6
5️⃣ Rasheem Green - 75.3 pic.twitter.com/M0aS3MM4Em
There’s no way to know right now if Stingley was the steal of the draft or the latest Texans’ bust. However, when you dig past the stats, the flashes are there and the ceiling is still high. With time and coaching, he still has the potential to retire as the greatest cornerback in Houston Texans history.