HOUSTON – Texans starting cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. injured his hamstring during the final play of practice Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging exam that determined the severity of the damage, according to league sources.
Stingley is now a strong candidate to be placed on injured reserve, per sources. Under NFL rules, Stingley would miss a minimum of four games before he is eligible to return to the active roster. However, the injury is expected to require a longer recovery time than four weeks.
“Look, he finished practice and felt something,” Texans defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “We’ll see where he is working through what he’s working through, and we’ll get him back when it’s time to get him back.”
Stingley is expected to be replaced primarily by third cornerback Shaq Griffin on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And the Texans’ defense will be without one of their top defensive backs for multiple weeks while he recovers from his hamstring injury.
A former LSU consensus All-American drafted third overall last year, Stingley has started the first two games of the season and has recorded nine tackles. He was effective in single coverage against Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the season opener.
For the season, Stingley has allowed four catches for 37 yards and no scores on six targets. He had made significant strides during the offseason and preseason, including adding muscle to his upper body.
A former Pro Bowl selection with the Seattle Seahawks cut by the Jaguars in March after signing a three-year, $44.5 million contract in 2021, Griffin was signed to a one-year deal with a maximum value of $4.5 million with $3 million guaranteed this offseason. Griffin has been targeted twice this season, allowing one catch for 29 yards. Griffin has 329 career tackles and six interceptions.
“Shaq has done a good job for us, obviously from when we brought him in,” Burke said. “He’s a veteran corner, he’s played a lot of ball. He’s a physical corner. I would say he’s one of our better tacklers at the edge. He’s shown that in preseason games and as we’ve gone through the weeks here. I feel good about what he’s done and where his growth has been for us.”
At 6-foot and a chiseled 190 pounds, Stingley possesses every tool to become a true lockdown corner. His loss represents a major blow to the Texans’ defense.
Stingley Jr. didn’t allow a touchdown pass as a rookie, displaying the athleticism and coverage skills the Texans envisioned when they selected him instead of cornerback Sauce Gardner, who was named All-Pro as a rookie with the New York Jets after being drafted fourth overall.
Stingley Jr. embraces the pressure of playing an unforgiving position where every step is on display while isolated in single coverage. As a top corner, Stingley Jr. is tasked with matching wits and footwork with some of the best athletes in the game.
Stingley Jr. made a full recovery from a Lisfranc foot injury last year after being limited him to three games as a junior before declaring early for the draft. He had previously dealt with an ankle injury and an illness as a sophomore while excelling and being named first-team All-Southeastern Conference for the second time. Stingley Jr. intercepted 27 passes during his high school career. He was a five-star recruit and ranked first overall by Rivals and a finalist for the National Gatorade Player of the Year.
Stingley Jr. got better and better as the season went on, including a key interception of Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the end zone during a road victory.
Targeted 54 times overall, Stingley allowed 34 completions for 409 yards as a rookie.
Stingley Jr. injured his leg against the New York Giants last November. His hamstring injury was more severe than the Texans acknowledged initially for competitive reasons. Before he got hurt, Stingley recorded one interception, one sack, five pass breakups, no touchdowns, an opposing passer rating of 78.4 and a 63-percent completion percentage against him. He played 97 percent of the Texans’ defensive snaps before getting hurt.
The Texans rank 11th in pass defense this season. Although they have suffered more injuries across the offensive line, they have been hit hard in the secondary, too.
Nickel back Tavierre Thomas broke a bone in his hand Sunday against the Colts, played the entire game with a soft cast and underwent surgery Tuesday, per a league source. He’s out at least a week or two. He will be replaced by Grayland Arnold.
Veteran safety and team captain Jimmie Ward has returned from a hip injury that forced him to miss the first two games of the season.
Safety Jalen Pitre, who led the Texans with 147 tackles and five interceptions last season, remains sidelined for the second week in a row with a bruised lung sustained while blitzing Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson and taking a knee to the chest.
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.