Derek Stingley Jr. is off to a fast start in training camp, making plays, breaking up passes and covering receivers like a warm blanket. During Monday's practice, the Houston Texans second-year cornerback snagged an interception and sprinted his way into the endzone.
"I saw he was running straight, then he broke out, and I just broke on the route, saw the ball and picked it off," Stingley said. "That was it."
Drafted by the Texans with the No. 3 overall pick last year, expectations were high for the rookie. Stingley started nine games, recording 43 tackles (35 solo), an interception, a sack and five passes defensed before injury caused him to miss the rest of the 2022 season.
This offseason, Stingley returned bigger and stronger after spending ample time in the weight room. Listed officially at 190 pounds, Stingley insists his weight hasn't changed, although he added more muscle to his 6-0 frame.
"I mean, I like to hit, you know what I'm saying?" Stingley says when asked about his offseason training. "Yeah, that's why."
Head Coach DeMeco Ryans also noticed that Stingley had worked on himself physically and mentally this offseason. The 22-year-old playmaker will be a key piece in Houston's defense this year, according to Ryans.
"I love the way [Derek] Stingley [Jr.] has been practicing these five days of training camp," Ryans said. "He's going after it every play, and his adjustment—I think you'll see him in more one-on-one opportunities. As you saw today, he made a big time play for us there. It's that every day. It's just that working and really challenging yourself, training yourself mentally and physically every snap, and that's what I'm seeing from Stingley."
Stingley has flashed in some of those one-on-one situations in camp. The normally soft-spoken Stingley smiled as he answered questions from the media Monday, displaying a confidence that has emerged after a year in the NFL and new role heading into Year 2.
"I get to be at the line of scrimmage, I get to be off [the line of scrimmage]," Stingley said. "I'm doing everything, so I feel like I'm around the ball a lot more. More plays to be made, so we'll see."
The Texans will open their 2023 season at M&T Bank Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 10.