In his NFL debut, well, preseason debut, Houston Texans rookie and second overall draft pick out of Ohio State C.J. Stroud threw two completions on four pass attempts for 13 yards and one interception. Sadly, that wasn’t what many hoped for based on recent training camp buzz. Forgotten in the hoopla of the interception was Stroud’s laser 8-yard completion to Nico Collins and his 4-yard scramble to avoid broken protection.
CJ Stroud’s ball placement is something ELSE— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 7, 2023
Stroud was just officially announced as the Texans’ starting QB for their first preseason game.
Stroud has been the first team QB for three practices straight now.
Stroud’s “command of the huddle” has reportedly stood out the… pic.twitter.com/xTQjkSom8q
On the surface, it didn’t look good. And the stats aren’t there to refute the bad optics either.
In comparison, draft rival Bryce Young completed four of his six passes for 21 yards.
Projected forward Young’s stats would look better over a full game. However, stats never tell the full story.
Stroud started the game minus the Houston Texans starting offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. George Fant started at left tackle, the quarterback’s best friend position. Fellow rookie Juice Scruggs started at center.
The drum we’ve beaten here many times is the need for offensive line continuity. Well, neither Stroud, nor Davis Mills or Case Keenum experienced that on Thursday night.
That lack of protection was on full display when Stroud took a 15-yard sack. However, unlike a lot of rookies, he didn’t try to force the ball to an unopen receiver, toss it blindly into traffic or lose it in a panicked fumble.
Along those lines, Young was hit on three of his seven drop backs, but otherwise had much better offensive line play.
Next up, Stroud was handing the ball off to another new Texan in Devin Singletary. The prime candidate for the second running back position did decent with what he was given, making two Patriots whiff spectacularly in the backfield on one play. But the rookie QB and former Buffalo Bill had never played together in a live game.
After that, Stroud was operating a new offense which was not just new for him as a first year field general, but new for every other player on the Texans as well.
New H-Town leader-of-men, DeMeco Ryans, calling his first game ever as an NFL head coach, pulled Stroud fairly early. Stories swirled that Stroud lobbied to go back out on the field to vindicate his rough start, but Ryans stuck to his guns.
At this stage in the game, I’ve been watching rookie quarterbacks start for NFL teams for more decades than I care to admit. In that time, I have exactly zero memories of any of them excelling in a brand new offense, with a patchwork offensive line, handing off to a new-to-the-team running back under a new offensive coordinator and first time head coach.
So, give Stroud a break - and don’t compare him to Mills or Keenum, one who is entering his third year with the team, the other a former Pro Bowl quarterback.
If Stroud is still putting up stats like this in week 8 or 10, then it might be time to circle the wagons. Right now, it’s just time to sit and watch how he grows.
The real question for the moment is “how does Stroud respond to his debut?” Will he come out against the Miami Dolphins this weekend and create some highlight reel plays? Will he give the world’s best fanbase reason to hope? Based on what he’s done so far, the answer is likely “yes!”