Texans went with Derek Stingley over Ahmad Gardner due to versatility potential

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The Houston Texans had a decision to make at No. 3 overall in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL draft.

With LSU cornerback Derek Stingley and Cincinnati defensive back Ahmad Gardner on the board, Houston would assuredly get a top-flight cornerback to star in coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme.

Gardner was the proven commodity with his touchdowns allowed streak and also Smith’s interest in him pre-draft. However, Stingley represented an opportunity to add a future All-Pro to the backend, which is why the Texans turned in the former Bayou Bengal’s card.

According to Jim Trotter from NFL.com, who joined “The Wheelhouse” on ESPN 97.5 in Houston [KFNC-FM] to talk about what he gleaned from his conversations with Smith about the decision between Stingley and Gardner.

“Yeah, the sense that I got is that both of those are special players that the Texans liked,” Trotter said. “But from my conversations with Lovie about Stingley, he loved the fact that this is a kid that played at an extremely high level, meaning the SEC and played against the top competition week in and week out — and not only week in and week out, but day in and day out in practice when we talk about going against guys like Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Justin Jefferson.”

Trotter also relayed that Stingley has a desire to improve as a technician, and that scouts across the NFL endorsed Stingley’s ability to be versatile on the backend — not simply play press coverage, which is Gardner’s go-to.

Said Trotter: “I think here is a feeling that Stingley is a little more versatile. If you talk to scouts around the league and what not, they will tell you primarily that Sauce Gardner is a press corner. Derek Stingley has shown the ability to do both: to play press and play zone, and we know Lovie plays some zone with Cover 2, Cover 3. And, look, what Lovie told me is — and this my take on this — if you want to annoy Lovie, try and tell him he runs primarily a zone defense. He said, ‘No, we play man. Stingley will be asked to play man, but we also will play zone and it will be a part of what we do.’ And part of that is twofold. Number one, to try to ask a corner to play man, press man for every snap of a game is going to wear that corner, and therefore you may have physical breakdowns at some point. At some point corners need a break in the course of a game. Secondly, Lovie is a guy that likes extra sets of eyeballs on the quarterback, on the football. And, so, from that standpoint he utilizes zone concepts, he can do that.”

In his final season at LSU, Stingley was limited to three games due to a Linsfranc injury in his foot. If injury concerns aren’t a problem for Stingley, then the Texans may have found a cornerback Smith likes to play a big role in his defense.

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Projecting the Houston Texans' 2022 schedule

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