After a gripping preseason finale that saw the Houston Texans clinch a 17-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints, Head Coach DeMeco Ryans wasted no time in making a pivotal announcement: Quarterback C.J. Stroud would be leading the Texans onto the field as the Week 1 starter in their impending showdown against the formidable Baltimore Ravens.
With a palpable sense of gratitude and determination, Stroud commented, “It was definitely a blessing, something that I think I worked for and definitely earned. At the same time, nothing else really changes. Still going to work like the way I’m working but even more now. I’m blessed enough to be able to be a starter, so young in this league, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. But I know my coaches have trust and faith in me, so I’ll go out there and do my best.”
This announcement marked a significant milestone for the rookie quarterback, who was well aware of the rarity of such an opportunity for a young player in the league. The Texans, who were the last team in the NFL to unveil their starting quarterback for the upcoming season, based their decision on Stroud’s performance and growth since his draft selection.
Coach Ryans elucidated his decision, saying, “It’s been over the course of the entire process of OTAs, training camp preseason games, just seeing the complete product and knowing CJ’s desire to continue to better.”
During the preseason, Stroud demonstrated his capabilities by starting in each game and going 11-of-18 for 89 yards, accompanied by one touchdown and one interception in eight series.
Stroud now joins the ranks of the other two rookie quarterbacks who were chosen in the top five of this year’s draft and will also be starting in Week 1: Bryce Young for the Carolina Panthers and Anthony Richardson for the Indianapolis Colts.
While Stroud’s ascension to the starting role was an expected outcome, it’s worth noting that in most cases, quarterbacks drafted in the top five tend to commence their rookie season as starters. Since the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement in 2011, 11 out of 17 quarterbacks selected in the top five began their NFL journeys as Week 1 starters.
Stroud’s journey to the starting position was not without its challenges. He entered training camp in a heated quarterback competition against Davis Mills, with both quarterbacks splitting reps with the starting offense at the outset of training camp. However, after a week of intensive practice and competition, Stroud managed to distinguish himself, ultimately earning the coveted first-team reps.
The Texans have faced a challenging past, ranking 31st in QBR (33.3) over the past two seasons, resulting in a record of 7-26-1. It was with the hope of rejuvenating their fortunes that they drafted Stroud, aiming to find the elusive franchise quarterback they’ve been seeking since parting ways with former quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Stroud’s debut in Week 1 will be no walk in the park, as he faces off against the Baltimore Ravens, a team led by the 2019 MVP, quarterback Lamar Jackson, and featuring a defense that finished third in scoring defense, allowing just 18.5 points per game in the previous season.
Historically, rookie quarterbacks drafted in the top five and starting in Week 1 have exhibited a mixed track record since 2011. They have accumulated a 4-6-1 record, with a 59% completion rate, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. However, Stroud remains undaunted by the challenge and is poised to make his mark in the NFL as the Texans’ new signal-caller.