CJ Stroud got the Texans to .500 with cool, calm and historic play

CJ Stroud makes it look easy. As we’ve seen firsthand, many new rookie quarterbacks have had difficulty adjusting to the NFL. The QBs at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft have had their struggles, with Mac Jones – who has since been benched twice for Bailey Zappe – looking like the best of that group this season. Last year’s best signal-caller is Mr. Irrelevant – the LAST pick of the draft –Brock Purdy, playing with the luxurious accommodations of his teammates and coaches. Now, in 2023, we have Stroud, an Ohio State product, play like a veteran and carry that Houston Texanswith rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans, back to respectability.

Stroud, the number 2 overall selection, was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. He opened October with his second 300-yard passing game of the season a 30-6 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This win was the Texans’ first home win since the day after Christmas 2021.

His completion percentage in Week 4 was 53 percent, by far the lowest of his short NFL career. The Texans launched a mash unit of an offensive line against a dominant Steelers pass rush that resulted in Houston leading the NFL in both sacks (13) and pressures (40). Along the Texans’ offensive front, the only active player who began the season as a projected starter was Shaq Mason.

Stroud looked 11 loads per day and was hit six times, but the Steelers didn’t record a single sack. Of his 16 completions on the day, Stroud was most successful when pushing the ball up the field. He was 9 of-14 on passes from 10 or more air yards on the field, including a 52-yard touchdown for Nico Collins.

What stands out most when watching Stroud play is his demeanor. He turned 22 on Tuesday, but he never seems panicked on the field with the ball in his hands. Not every play goes the way he intended, but as a rookie He is a stabilizing presence for his football team and its makeshift offensive line.

As a passer, Stroud’s arm is special. When he lets go of the ball, it jumps out of his hand. It’s like there’s gunpowder in his fingertips. Stroud also has complete control of this quick release. He can place the ball over a defender’s head, to the side and in through windows. One criticism coming out of college is that he is hesitant to use his running skills. Stroud didn’t break any long runs, but his legs gained extra time for throws and a few yards when needed.

For four weeks Stroud is playing quarterback at a historic level. He is the only player in NFL history to have more than 1,200 total passing yards and no interceptions in his first four starts. His Week 4 performance also made him the first rookie since the merger to record more than 250 pass yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in three consecutive games. With 1,212 total passing yards, Stroud is second only to Cam Newton in passing yards the first four games.

It’s common for rookie quarterbacks to struggle. Most are in a rebuilding situation and on shaky foundations. Stroud was no different. The Texans have been in turmoil since 2021, and they started the season with a patchwork offensive line.

After four games, the Texans are 2-2. That speaks to good play and good training across the board, but none of it would be possible without Stroud behind center, like a player much older than 22.

https://deadspin.com/cj-stroud-houston-texans-nfl-afc-west-1850896825 CJ Stroud got the Texans to .500 with cool, calm and historic play

Ian Walker

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