Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jack Dempsey/AP/Shutterstock (13400614l) Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) makes the catch but lands out of bounds as Houston Texans cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, in Denver Texans Broncos Football, Denver, United States – 18 Sep 2022
Let’s call it a learning experience because it won’t be a game he forgets anytime soon.
Sunday’s game against the Broncos got off to a dubious start for Texans rookie cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., and it didn’t get better for the next three hours.
Stingley made his name at LSU as a strong man corner. In Week 1, the Texans had Stingley playing in a lot of zone coverage, but in Week 2, he drew a lot more man assignments vs. Courtland Sutton of the Broncos. Sutton is a former 2nd round pick out of SMU. He’s 6-4 and 216 lbs, is an accomplished route runner, and knows how to use his size to his advantage. Sutton had 4 inches in height and a solid 20 pounds on Stingley, which is a notable advantage. He used all of it Sunday.
On the Broncos very first pass play of the game, Stingley was flagged for pass interference. Stingley had a hold of the jersey, a hand on the back, and a hand on the back shoulder. It was an aggressive play from Stingley, and the jersey tug likely got him flagged. It cost 10 yards and a first down.
Two plays later, Sutton burned Stingley for 21 yards.
On the Broncos’ next possession, on a 2nd & 10 from the Houston 44, Stingley was again flagged for pass interference on Sutton, grabbing hold of the receiver’s arm before he could attempt to catch the pass. Stingley was beaten, and the play likely would have resulted in a touchdown. The penalty resulted in the Broncos getting a 1st and Goal at the 2.
The next play, Russell Wilson went at Stingley again on a corner fade route to Sutton. Sutton caught the ball over Stingley, but his second foot just caught the sideline, and he was declared out of bounds. Bullet dodged, temporarily.
The Broncos’ next scoring drive was aided by a 34-yard pass down the left side from Wilson to Sutton on Stingley. It set the Broncos up with a 1st & 10 at the Houston 16 on a drive that would result in a field goal that tied the game at 6 with :20 to go before the half.
In the 3rd quarter, the Broncos converted a 4th & 2 on a 6-yard pass to Sutton on Stingley. Stingley would be shaken up on the play and briefly leave the game for a play, but fortunately, he was okay. Denver didn’t score on that drive, but they would on their next one.
The Broncos next drive started at their own 38. On 3rd & 16 from their own 32, Wilson found Sutton deep down the left side again, all alone. Stingley had gotten turned around twice on the route, and Sutton flew by for a 35-yard gain to the Texans’ 33 on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was a critical 3rd down failure. Three plays later, Denver was in the end zone.
In the end, Sutton would finish with 7 receptions for 122 yards, almost exclusively while being covered by Stingley. He also drew two DPI penalties on Stingley for a total of 52 yards.
It was a challenging game for the rookie, and he will most likely learn a great deal from it and become a better player going forward.
However, in this game, there was a lot of painful learning.