HOUSTON – Texans cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. had a positive week of practice, running with the first-team defense and is being activated from injured reserve-designated for return to play in a road game Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to league sources.
There have been internal discussions of having him the former consensus All-American from LSU operate on a pitch count against Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, his former LSU teammate, according to sources.
The Texans released offensive tackle Austin Deculus from the active roster and elevated kicker Matt Ammendola from the practice squad, per a league source.
The Texans later made both of those moves official, along with elevating fullback Dalton Keene with Andrew Beck out with ankle and shoulder injuries, placed kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn on injured reserve with a strained quadriceps and signed center Dieter Eiselen to the active roster from the practice squad.
Stingley Jr. participated fully the past two days in practice and has no injury designation after returning to practice Wednesday on a limited basis.
Stingley Jr. suffered a severe hamstring injury on the final play of practice seven weeks ago. Many who saw the play have emphasized that Stingley was fortunate that he wasn’t injured more seriously while diving for an interception.
This week has been the target week for the past few weeks, according to sources.
Significant weight was given to the time the former third overall pick has missed and the wisdom of making this a potential ramp-up week this week before returning to play and being activated for a game the following week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Stingley Jr’s 21-day practice window began Wednesday along with offensive tackle Charlie Heck who has dealt with sciatica from a back injury that affected his foot, per sources.
“We’re happy to have Stingley back out practicing,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We’ll see how his week goes and how he progresses. We’ll see, whenever he has the opportunity to get back.”
Stingley started the first two games of this 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.
At 6-foot and a chiseled 190 pounds, Stingley possesses every tool to become a true lockdown corner. He just needs to become more durable.
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.
Texans starting running back Dameon Pierce and wide receiver Nico Collins are among a large group of injured players who are not going to be in the lineup Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Pierce will be replaced by Devin Singletary for the second week in a row due to a sprained ankle.
Collins injured his calf against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers then it became apparent during warmups Wednesday that he couldn’t go, so it wasn’t a lot of activity at all even though he was listed as limited. He hasn’t practiced the past two days. Noah Brown, Tank Dell and Robert Woods, who is expected back from a foot injury, will be counted on to shoulder the workload with John Metchie III and Xavier Hutchinson providing depth.
Fullback Andrew Beck is set to miss this game with ankle, elbow and shoulder injuries. The ankle issue is the most serious problem, per a league source.
Also set to miss this game: starting safety Jimmie Ward, a team captain, due to a hamstring injury regarded as week to week, per a league source as far as when he can return, starting cornerback Steven Nelson, another team captain, due to neck and back injuries and regarded as probable to return against the Arizona Cardinals next week, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn out three weeks with strained quadriceps with practice squad kicker Matt Ammendola replacing him, linebacker Jake Hansen, broken hand, surgery, and hamstring, tight end Brevin Jordan, foot, plantar fasciitis improving, linebacker Henry To’To’To with a concussion.
The Texans officially ruled out Beck, Collins, Fairbairn, Jordan, Pierce, To’To’To, Hansen and Ward.
Nelson, who leads the Texans with three interceptions, is officially listed as questionable, but he is not slated to play, per league sources.
Woods is listed as questionable, but is expected to play. He participated fully Friday.
Ward will likely be replaced by a combination of DeAndre Houston-Carson and Grayland Arnold.
The Texans’ starting linebackers are expected to be Denzel Perryman at Mike, Christian Harris at Will and Blake Cashman at Sam.
Starting defensive end Will Anderson Jr. returned to practice Thursday and participated on a limited basis after being out one day with a knee injury. Then, Anderson participated fully Friday and has no injury designation and is set to start.
Anderson got hit on his knee Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sustaining a bruise. Drafted third overall, the former Alabama standout has recorded 30 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for losses and nine quarterback hits with 13 pressures.
Woods missed the past two games. He has caught 22 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown on 43 targets.
Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil has practiced the past two days in a row after he returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after one rest day as the team manages his lingering knee injury. He has no injury designation and is set to play Sunday.
The Texans have an extensive injury report with multiple players missing practice Wednesday.
“It doesn’t stop our process,” Ryans said. “We go through the same process, and things happen. That’s life. Things don’t go your way all the time, so I continue to smile through it, and we’re going to have our best guys out there. Whoever is available, we’re going to have our best guys out there and we’re going to play the Texan brand of football.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com