Texans special teams coach Frank Ross says CB Derek Stingley to be ‘in the mix’ as a punt returner

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The Houston Texans don’t have a high-powered offense. For the AFC South club to win games, it will take cultivating more hidden yardage and extra possessions from the transition phase of the game.

Houston had limited success in 2021 on special teams. Cornerback Desmond King averaged 9.1 yards per punt on 17 returns last season. Cornerback Tremon Smith returned a kickoff for a touchdown as part of his 21 returns for 537 yards.

Special teams coordinator Frank Ross knows that to build upon the success from 2021 in his second year commanding the unit, the process will take evaluating perimeter players for new returners.

“If there’s a defensive back that’s not catching punts post practice and getting work in the period, you’re wrong,” Ross told reporters after mandatory minicamp on Wednesday at Houston Methodist Training Center. “The more value you can add as a wide receiver, defensive back, or running back. We’ve got to have depth that can handle the ball on the starting 53-man roster and then on the active 48.”

One perimeter player that piques the curiosity of football fans is first-round cornerback Derek Stingley. The former LSU product had an 11.3 yards per punt return in college — including 9.6 in 2019 and 16.2 in 2020 — which gave the Tigers an advantage in average starting field position.

Ross indicated that the No. 3 overall pick would be a part of the plan at punt returner.

“Stingley, he will be a guy in the mix as well,” said Ross.

The Texans’ experimentation at returner also included the signing of former Pro Bowler Andre Roberts, who had a dismal tenure with Houston. The Texans are counting on the special teams unit to hit the ground running to start the season and give Houston another advantage.

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