Football is (un)officially back! The 2023 NFL preseason opened with the Hall of Fame Game between the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets last Thursday, kicking off three full, football-centric weeks. Up next, the very first game of week 1: Houston Texans at New England Patriots tonight at 7 p.m. ET. No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud will play as the starting quarterback in Tonight’s Texans vs. Patriots game, giving fans an even bigger reason to tune into the Texans’ preseason opener.
Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud got a Bill Belichick welcome to the NFL in his first preseason action.
Stroud played two series Thursday night in the Texans’ 20-9 win over the New England Patriots, completing 2 of 4 passes for 13 yards with an interception and a sack. He added two scrambles for 6 yards.
“Kind of a crazy opportunity to be able to go out, my first NFL stadium, my first NFL game, and just a lot of things that I’ve been through to just get to that moment,” Stroud said after the game. “It was just special. Of course just wish I didn’t make one mistake on one certain play, but other than that, I thought I played solid.
“Felt good to get hit again and just get back in the groove. I just think that’s what preseason is for.”
The rookie signal-caller was under siege behind an offensive line comprised chiefly of backups. The Pats officially pressured Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, on three dropbacks, repeatedly pushing the QB off his spot. New England blitzed Stroud on 60% of his dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats.
“I thought it was good for C.J. to go out and get some live reps, get some real looks,” Texans rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans said. “I thought he moved around well, went to the right place with the ball a couple times, and it was good to see him move out of the pocket and try to make some things happen there.
“We know we’ve got some things to clean up, up front, and I don’t want him having to move as much, but we all have things to clean up and get better at. But I thought it was a good first outing, good look at live action, so I thought it was good for him.”
Facing a Patriots defense — which has one of the deepest rushing groups in the league — with a slew of backup offensive linemen is a tough task for any first-year quarterback. It felt like Stroud got pressured more in two series in his first preseason action than in entire games at Ohio State. The rookie showed he has a way to go with his processing, which should improve with more reps.
“Of course I’m not super excited how I played,” Stroud said. “I didn’t get to play a lot, but just get my feet in the water, learn from my mistakes and just keep growing.”
Stroud got his feet wet Thursday in a brief outing. It wasn’t pretty. The question moving forward is how he bounces back.
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