The Houston Texans won!!! They won, and in convincing fashion, too! It only took three games for DeMeco Ryans to net his first victory as a head coach, and it’s only taken three games for C.J. Stroud to look like THE answer to Houston’s quarterback dilemma. The Houston Texans poured it on the Jaguars, responding to every glitter kitties mistake with a big play. Stroud had, yet again, the best game of his career thus far, completing 20/30 passes (66.7 CMP %) for 280 yards, two touchdowns, and a 118.8 passer rating. Stroud wasn’t just a very good quarterback on Sunday, he was arguably one of the best passers in the AFC! We’re not even a month into the season and Stroud is already placing himself among elite talent in the conference, as well as surpassing Patrick Mahomes for the third most passing yards (906) for a quarterback’s first three starts, behind only Justin Herbert (931) and Cam Newton (1,012).
CJ Stroud standing tall in a tight pocket, subtly resetting himself to side step pressure, and then ripping a deep out for a chunk.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) September 25, 2023
This kid is so good. pic.twitter.com/9ZJSpPu3VT
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not bring up fellow rookie wide receiver Tank Dell in all this. Dell’s elusiveness and athleticism have immediately translated into the NFL with seemingly no hiccups, becoming the x-factor this offense needs to fully unlock C.J. Stroud. Dell finished the day with five receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown, proving that the Stroud/Dell connection is truly deadly. His speed pairs perfectly with Stroud’s anticipation and deep-ball accuracy, and if it only took three games for both rookies to take over an NFL game, can you image what they could be capable of down the road?
CJ Stroud with a pretty throw to Tank Dell on Blazer (details below). Dell does a nice job pressing to the numbers before speeding by pic.twitter.com/mW1fjY8htW— Shawn (@SyedSchemes) September 25, 2023
Even the patchwork offensive line played well! Three of the top ten PFF rated offensive players on Houston’s team were linemen, with one being rookie center Jarrett Patterson, finishing with a 76.3 run-blocking grade and 83.7 pass-blocking grade. He looked far more in his element this game, and recent roster additions G Kendrick Green and LT Josh Jones did a serviceable job, which is especially impressive for Jones since he had to replace stalwart tackle Laremy Tunsil for this game. Who’s Travon Walker, again? Who’s Josh Allen? It wasn’t as if the Jaguars defensive line didn’t exist on Sunday, but netting zero sacks is a sign of some pretty solid pass-blocking. Surely, this will get Houston flying up the rankings, right?
Here’s where everyone has ranked the Houston Texans after their victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars:
23. Houston Texans (1-2) (Last Week: 31)
The win over the Jaguars was a true three-phase victory for the Texans and one of their most thoroughly impressive efforts in years. I saw the clear development of C.J. Stroud and the passing game, a defense that forced two timely turnovers (both corralled by Blake Cashman) and special teams that blocked a field goal and ran back a kickoff for a touchdown. Stroud and fellow rookie Tank Dell forming such a strong early connection gives hope for something special in time. DeMeco Ryans’ defense might still be shorthanded, but the group battled all game. The young seeds of the roster really sprouted on Sunday, and it’s easy to see how Houston could be a very competitive team in time.
- Eric Edholm
28. Houston Texans (1-2) (Last Week: 31)
Week 3 ranking: 31
Offensive efficiency: 30.1 (21st)
Biggest issue on offense: Run game
The Texans’ rush attack is among the worst in the NFL. They rank last in yards per carry (2.8) and average 70 yards per game, which ranks 29th. The Texans’ offensive line has had four starters missing for two out of the three weeks of the season, including their expansive tackle duo in Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. That helps explain why the rushing attack has struggled, but it should still be better.
- DJ Bien-Aime
25. Houston Texans (1-2) (Last Week: 27)
Last week: win at Jacksonville, 37–17
Next week: vs. Pittsburgh
The level of competence displayed by C.J. Stroud and confidence in him displayed by the Texans over the last two weeks has been nothing short of incredible. Either Stroud is an incredibly fast learner, or he was faking his distress in the preseason. Seriously, how do you go from that Patriots game to launching a perfectly placed table-setting deep shot against the Jaguars on the opening drive? Stroud is also making great throws with bodies closing in on him. As he grows into his frame, he’s going to become a powerful, play-extending force.
- Conor Orr
29. Houston Texans (1-2)
Last Week: 30
Week 3 Result: Won at Jacksonville 37-17
On Sunday in Jacksonville, Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud had his coming-out party. And he wasn’t alone.
The second overall pick in the 2023 draft wasn’t the only reason why the Texans pasted the defending AFC South champions. But he played a big part, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns with a robust passer rating of 118.8. The main beneficiary of Stroud’s big day was fellow rookie Tank Dell, who caught five passes for 145 yards and a score.
This wasn’t Stroud’s first good game, either. Per ESPN Stats & Information, he’s now the first quarterback in NFL history to have at least 900 passing yards, four passing touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first three career starts.
The former Ohio State star has made a believer of Texans tight end Brevin Jordan.
“The best thing that happened to the Houston Texans’ franchise was us beating the Indianapolis Colts last game, last year,” Jordan told ESPN’s DJ Bien-Aime. “We drafted the right guy. Man, he’s a leader. He’s a phenomenal player and a phenomenal guy with God-given talent. Dude, he’s unbelievable.”
The Texans are still a young team with a ways to go before becoming a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But Houston appears to have found its franchise quarterback.
That can make all the difference in the world.
- Gary Davenport, Maurice Moton, Brent Sobleski
Houston is getting some real movement up the boards, now! Some publications are still a little bearish of the C.J. Stroud experience, but I see Eric Edholm of NFL.com and Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated are buying in big time. The Texans are now squarely in the 20s of the top 32, and if this momentum can be continued, could be knocking on the door of the top 20 come next week! Last week, the average position of the Houston Texans between these four publications was 29.75, and in just one week it has risen to 26.25, a full 3.5 spots upward! Just absolutely remarkable improvement from the Texans after years of spiraling downward.
To think it was just a week ago I was bemoaning how many uncompetitive games Houston has been in since the turn-of-the decade, and how, “…it’s going to take at least a little while longer until these Texans are leaping up the list.” Well, instead of “a little while longer,” I should have said literally just seven more days for the aura around the team to completely change. It’s as if someone had blasted the storm-clouds out the sky in an instant, exposing the most beautiful sunny day I’ve seen in years. It’s not very often Texans fans have had the opportunity to unabashedly celebrate their team, especially in the last few years, so don’t be afraid to board the Stroud/Dell hype train. The Texans have finally arrived, and I’m here for every last second of it.
Next week, Houston seeks to keep the party rolling as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at NRG Stadium. Pittsburgh’s defense has been stingy and turnover-happy, so it’ll be another big test for Stroud and the offensive line. But, after that performance against Jacksonville, I think he’s up for any challenge.