Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is expected to play against the Indianapolis Colts as long as warmups go smoothly with his sore right throwing shoulder, according to league sources.
Stroud didn’t throw Friday during a practice session, per sources, and was listed as limited and questionable on the final injury report. The second overall pick and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist would be replaced by backup Davis Mills if there’s an issue with his arm heading into Sunday’s game at NRG Stadium.
In his NFL debut last week in a 25-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Stroud completed 28 of 44 passes for 244 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was under heavy duress, sacked five times and hit 10 times overall, with one lost fumble on a strip sack in the second half.
Stroud frequently delivered the football with zip, accuracy and timing Sunday albeit in a losing cause, especially on his intermediate throws to wide receivers Nico Collins and Robert Woods.
And the California native displayed poise, composure and an unflappable, competitive personality during his NFL debut against a talented Ravens defense.
“I’m excited, man,” Stroud said Wednesday. Colts another great challenge, another great defense that we’ll play against. Excited, man because that’s what NFL football is about. And playing quarterback is about going the next week to the next week, just improving, and that’s something I’m looking forward to is just getting better and better every week, trying to lead my guys to victory against a great defense and a great team, and I’m really excited to do that.
“I know this is my first regular season game in Houston, and I can’t wait to see everybody show up and be loud, and hopefully be quiet when we’re on offense. I’m excited to finally try to stamp something special in Houston that we’ve been working really hard, and I’m excited to see everyone come out and support, because we need them.”
Against the Ravens, Stroud showed his toughness as he absorbed some crushing hits from blitzing linebackers Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith and defensive end Ofade Oweh.
In the bigger picture for a Texans organization that has gone 11-38-1 over the previous three seasons, having a talented quarterback for the first time since three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson could be a game-changer in accelerating their construction project as a franchise.
“I know he’s a competitor,” offensive lineman Josh Jones said. “He wants to win.”
Stroud had a stellar career with the Buckeyes, passing for 8,123 yards with 85 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Buckeyes went 21-4 during his two seasons as the starter. He broke Drew Brees’ two-year record for touchdown passes. He lost just one road game, a 49-34 loss to Michigan in his first season as the starter.
“That guy, he’s going to be a great quarterback coming up,” Queen said. “It’s just tough coming up here against us as a rookie. So, that’s what we do.”
While it wasn’t a smooth game for the offense overall, Stroud took it all in stride.
Stroud lost just one road game in two seasons at Ohio State, and he thrived in difficult situations, including a playoff loss last season to the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
The Texans could have done more to help him, including some plays that didn’t work or appear to have a decent chance from the jump. The Texans had 18 first downs, went 7 of 18 on third downs, 1 of 4 on fourth downs and were penalized nine times for 88 yards. They went 0 for 2 on two red-zone opportunities.
“I thought he played well,” offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik said. “His first game in Baltimore, he did some really good things. He made some plays that were outside the structure, when things weren’t always going right around him. He was very, very efficient and on time within the structure. He was able to see the field. It was what you would ask for in a first game from a rookie quarterback.
“For a young quarterback, he’s very functional from the pocket which is rare, and he has elite accuracy. The ball goes exactly where he wants it to go, and I think he’s shown in the NFL, in one game, he’s shown more athleticism than I think a lot of people gave him credit for.”
Stroud rushed for 20 yards on four carries. He showed a willingness and ability to run and improvise on the fly.
Stroud wasn’t intimidated and he was undaunted despite all of the hits he took.
There were times when he could have gotten rid of the football and took more punishment than he needed to.
“He came out and did his thing,” said wide receiver Nico Collins, who caught six passes for 80 yards on 11 targets. “It’s a long season. We’ve got his back. He was good. He played a great game.”
“I think he was tough as (expletive,” right guard Shaq Mason said. “Absolutely, we can build on that. He tried to make the plays that came to him. Obviously, we have to do a better job. I think we can build on his toughness and poise and keep stacking.”
And Stroud is striking a balance between being aggressive and playing it safe. It’s a work in progress, but that was to be expected.
“It’s growing,” Stroud said. “I definitely could have thrown it away a couple of times.”
Factoring in his relative inexperience, the fact that he operated behind a makeshift offensive line that struggled mightily to protect him, Stroud manufactured a respectable, albeit unspectacular performance that provided legitimate reasons for encouragement and earned praise from his older teammates.
As the Texans’ newly-minted QB1, the 21-year-old California native and team captain, was a leader for the rebuilding Texans.
“He did damn good in my eyes,” running back Dameon Pierce said. “Given the looks he was given, he stayed calm, stayed poised. We got a quarterback and a few nickels.”
The speed of the game, while accelerated in the NFL, didn’t appear to be too much for Stroud.
“Yeah, guys are big, and they move around fast, but I think as you’re out there playing, your adrenaline is going,” Stroud said. “You’re not really like, ‘Dang, I’m slow now.’ I don’t think I really felt like that. The guys, they’re getting paid, too. They make plays, too, so I think I made a couple guys miss, but yeah, the game does speed up a little bit. I feel like as the game speeds up, your process speeds up, and I think just as a player, that’s the challenge that I love is playing against those great players.
“This offense we’re in is very, very powerful and promising, and I think we’ll show that, weeks to come, but it’s going to take time. It’s not just going to happen right overnight, but the speed of it I don’t think has really boggled my mind and made me think like, ‘Oh, man, I’ve got to do this.’”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.
Texans' Laremy Tunsil expected to miss game, Josh Jones to play LT
By Aaron Wilson
With Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil not expected to play Sunday due to a knee injury and left guard Josh Jones to step in for him, per league sources, the Texans took additional steps to add depth to the position.
The Texans elevated second-year offensive tackle Austin Deculus and safety-special teams contributor DeAndre Houston-Carson from the practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, per a source.
The Texans elevated offensive guard Michael Deiter from the practice squad to the active roster. Deiter played left guard and one play at right tackle against the Baltimore Ravens a week ago.
They released veteran defensive end Derek Rivers from the active roster.
A week ago, the Texans were forced to shuffle their injury-battered offensive line during the second half of a 25-9 loss to the Ravens. When right tackle George Fant, the replacement for injured right tackle Tytus Howard, who’s on injured reserve as he recovers from hand surgery, left the game with a right shoulder stinger, the Texans moved Deiter over to tackle. Deiter, though, surrendered a strip sack as rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud fumbled. After that, Jones played right tackle the remainder of the game. Fant is set to go for Sunday’s home opener at NRG Stadium.
With Tunsil not expected to play and Jones lining up at left tackle, the Texans’ top options at left guard are Deiter and center-guard Kendrick Green per a league source.
Green is a former Pittsburgh Steelers third-round draft pick acquired during the final roster cutdown.
Deculus is a 6-foot-6, 325-pound Cy-Fair graduate drafted in the sixth round last season out of LSU. He played in five games last season with no offensive snaps, playing strictly on special teams.
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.