C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, enjoyed a solid second preseason start on Saturday afternoon.
The Texans signal-caller, still yet to be named the Week 1 starter, made a better case for his assumption in Houston's 28-3 defeat to the visiting Miami Dolphins.
In his first game in front of the Houston faithful, Stroud played the entire first half and finished 7-of-12 passing for 60 yards in four drives; on the Texans' fifth first-half possession, Stroud took one snap for a kneeldown. The rookie was pressured just twice on 12 dropbacks and picked up three first downs via the pass, all on Houston's lone first-half scoring drive.
The second of five straight completions on the march, Stroud first found Nico Collins on a slant for 14 yards. The next play, Stroud showcased his mobility and accuracy on the run with a play-action boot to Noah Brown, another 14-yard conversion. After a short shot to Dalton Schultz for six yards, Stroud picked up his final first down on a well-timed 11-yard completion to the veteran Robert Woods, this time to his left.
It was a fine comeback for Stroud after he was gifted a red-zone possession on Houston's opening drive and squandered it. On a third-and-goal from the Dolphins' 1-yard-line less than two minutes into the game, Stroud took a delay of game penalty and then tossed two incompletions to Schultz and Andrew Beck. The missed opportunity was one of three drives Saturday on which Stroud's unit couldn't muster a first down.
All in all, though, it was an improvement on Stroud's preseason debut, when he played just two series, completed two passes, threw an interception and took a sack.
"What I saw from C.J.'s throws was the ball was coming out on time, it was very accurate, the ball placement was very good," Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said after the game. "So it's encouraging to see him from Week 1 to this week, to see the improvement, just overall seeing him more comfortable, and I saw him having fun playing the game.
"Seeing him be able to scramble outside of the pocket and make a play, it's fun when you can see guys actually enjoying football, having fun, doing it. If he continues to grow, we're gonna be just fine."
As of Saturday evening, Stroud is the only 2023 first-round quarterback to not have been named his team's starter. Bryce Young has been the guy in Carolina since July, and Anthony Richardson was named Indy's QB1 this week.
While it's expected Stroud will be the man under center come Week 1 against Baltimore, Ryans has not yet said he'll be Houston's starter over incumbent Davis Mills, who went 10-of-22 for 94 yards on five drives on Saturday afternoon.
"We'll have a starter in Baltimore. It's the same as I've said previously," Ryans said Saturday. "You guys will see the starter when we get to Baltimore."
If Ryans and the Texans wish to drag the decision out until September, Stroud will have to wait until after his preseason finale, a Sunday night showdown with the New Orleans Saints and the NFL's final game before the start of the regular season.
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