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Breaking Down Texans QB C.J. Stroud’s Week 4 and 5 Performances

Weekly analysis of CJ Stroud’s ascent in his rookie season.

NFL: Houston Texans at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Wins and losses. Stats and points. It’s all relative at the end while the Houston Texans are in the midst of a rebuilding process. Houston fans, if anyone told you the Texans were 2-3 and have a top 10 QB at the helm, you’d take that in a heartbeat. And you have. What rookie QB C.J. Stroud has done through five games has been nothing short of a miracle. He’s outplayed every benchmark and expectation pundits had for him.

Whether Stroud truly will develop into Houston’s next franchise QB has yet to be seen, in my opinion. I need several comeback games, multiple dominant performances, and growth throwing the ball down the field. For now, I’m ecstatic to see the development week over week.

Weeks 1 & 2

Week 3

Week 4:

  • Spread offense: Stroud evenly spread the ball around this week going 6/11 on the left side and 7/10 on the right side of the field. It’s the first time we’ve seen more passes thrown to the left side of the field.
  • Shorty get down: 29 passes were less than 20 yards down the field
  • No WR screens: compared to Week 3, the wide receiver screen was not incorporated in the offense. That can be attributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers corner play, which was tight all game long.
  • Less sideline catches. previously Stroud dotted up the curl and corner routes that ended at the sideline. This week’s graphic indicates
  • Less is less?: Stroud through 30 passes the last two weeks. That many drop backs feels like a more comfortable amount than the 44 and 47 he threw in the first two outings. However, this was his lowest completion percentage through five games
  • Average Intended Air Yards (IAY): 8.7 yards (ninth)
  • Air Yards to The Sticks (AYTS): 0.5 (seventh)

Analysis: More passes going to the left side of the field was one of the items we wanted to see the most. It demonstrates that there isn’t an inability to evenly attack a defense. You see teams quickly adjust to players such as Kenny Pickett and Daniel Jones who are one-side dominant. Stroud continues to push the ball down the field at an elite level, once again having 8.7 average intended air yards. The fearlessness and ability to find players open down the field is miraculous.

What we can’t see was the dominance and third down play as a team, Houston was fourth in third down percentage through four weeks..... but that will change heading into Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Week 5:

  • Condensed field: as we’ve noticed, Stroud enjoys targeting the sidelines. The Falcons took that away this game and It worked fairly well
  • Lower completion percentage: for the second week in a row Stroud’s completion percentage has been below 60%. 65% is a benchmark line for any QB, so for Stroud to be consistently below that is concerning
  • No screens: the WR screen once again was abandoned in the game plan. A once staple of the early hasn’t been included recently
  • Going left: once again we see Stroud turning to the left side of the field to throw. 8/12 on the left side is certainly good to see
  • Average Intended Air Yards (IAY): 8.8 yards (11th)
  • Air Yards to The Sticks (AYTS): -0.3 (14th)

Analysis: While Stroud struggled on third down throughout the game, his best work came on third and nine in the red zone in the fourth quarter. That’s three areas you lean heavily on your QB: third and long, red zone, and late in the game. He found an open Dalton Schultz and put the Texans in front.

Stroud was under pressure all game, you can see that he defers to a five-yard check down when under pressure. He had a great completion percentage on these short throws, but you don’t want it to turn into a reliance on the short pass when pressured - teams will scheme for that.