The offense may be sputtering on the field, but on the stat sheet the passing game is humming like a Rolls-Royce. Call it stat-padding, call it late-game heroics, call it the C.J. Stroud effect, but whatever you do, don’t dismiss the improvement in the passing game.
Through two games, Houston Texans rookie QB C.J. Stroud has gone 58/91 (63.7%) for two touchdowns and no interceptions. While the team is 0-2 and the games were not close, that stat line is hard to gripe about. No interceptions through two games is as good of a consequence as one can ask for.
INSANE STAT: Houston #Texans ROOKIE quarterback CJ Stroud has been off to a historic start, he also has MORE 300 yard passing games than #Bears QB Justin Fields, who has been in the #NFL for 3 seasons— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) September 18, 2023
Evaluating the passing game without context is like looking at a chessboard without watching the match. It’s hard to tell what exactly occurred unless you effectively analyze the process. What we will do here is take into account Stroud’s
This will become a weekly recap posted every Wednesday so continue to follow along as we evaluate C.J. Stroud’s first season in the NFL.
- Safe throws - 27% of Stroud’s throws were behind the line of scrimmage
- Even playing field - 40% of passes were thrown to the left side and 47% of passes thrown to the right side of the field
- No long balls - only two passes were attempted around 30 yards and both were incomplete
- Route clusters - five and out, deep slant, WR screens, RB dump offs
- Average Intended Air Yards (IAY): 5.7 Yards (25th)
- Air Yards to The Sticks (AYTS): -3.6 (26th)
Analysis: the first game is always by the book. Stick to the best throws in his repertoire and don’t push anything down the field. No touchdowns, but no interceptions is a tradeoff I will take, even if it is a loss. Stroud was 0/2 in the red zone, which is expected but not fantastic to see starting out. When the field condensed, Stroud appeared less comfortable picking apart their defense. It is good to see Houston trying the deep ball as that helps open up the offense, but there aren’t any quality deep threats on the roster this year.
The two Next Gen Stats can be found here. IAY helps identify how far down the field Stroud is throwing his passes, while AYTS measures how far past the first down marker he’s throwing. Overall, these two stats confirm the conservative nature with which Stroud attacked the defense. The goal of the offense was to comfortably get the ball into the hands of the athletes and let them make a play. This is the first step in a long process to build rapport with the receivers and running backs. It’s not surprising to see the lower-third rankings for these two stats, but one hopes this improves week over week throughout the season.
- Significantly less passes behind the line of scrimmage
- Two TDs of 10+ yards demonstrates Stroud’s ability to push the ball down the field
- Greater tendency to throw the ball to the right side - typical for right-handed QBs
- Limited deep threats - no passes beyond 21 yards attempted
- Trust the sideline - Stroud was 6/8 when throwing to the right sideline, but 0/3 when throwing to the left
- Accuracy in the middle - 6/7 between the hashes - there was a focus on picking a part the Colts soft zone
- Average Intended Air Yards (IAY): 10.2 Yards (4th)
- Air Yards to The Sticks (AYTS): 1.5 Yards (3rd)
Analysis: There is a clear box where Stroud feels comfortable throwing, and that box ends at 20 yards down field. Houston was playing from behind from the get-go, which explains the 47 attempts in a game. Ideally, Stroud is closer to 38, but Houston’s run game has been abysmal due to the injuries across the offensive line. I wish this graphic showed his movement in the pocket, which was fairly impressive for the most part. Stroud did hold onto the ball for a tad long this game, but that should improve with time and understanding of the offense (hopefully). In the Red Zone, Stroud was 3/6 for 22 yards and a TD.
The Next Gen Stats demonstrate the air-raid offense Houston rolled out in a blow out. Stroud was aggressive in moving the ball down the field, especially when targeting Nico Collins over the middle. While this week will extend as an outlier, it’s fantastic to see his willingness to attack a defense, no matter the score.
Stay tuned each Wednesday to follow C.J. Stroud progression throughout the season.