The Houston Texans spent the No. 2 overall pick on C.J. Stroud with the expectation he’ll become their franchise quarterback for the next decade-plus.
He just might have to work for it in 2023.
Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans became the latest whistle-wearer to take a stance many coaches have adopted before him, telling reporters Tuesday he and his staff are a long way from deciding who will start under center in Week 1.
“The process with all our players is to come out and improve and get better each day,” Ryans said, via the team’s transcript. “When the fall comes, that’s when we’ll talk about starters and who are the best 11 men to go out there and help us win games.”
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Because public appearance matters more than ever, Ryans has to make these statements. And perhaps there’s some truth to it; After all, plenty of past first-round picks haven’t been ready to play in Week 1.
Sometimes, a veteran on the roster is expected to start the season as QB1. It happened in Pittsburgh last season with Mitchell Trubisky, who eventually ceded his job to Kenny Pickett.
The opposite can be true, too. New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones surprisingly rose from a rookie most expected to sit behind Cam Newton to winner of the starting job in 2021, leading to Newton’s release.
This is all to say there’s no boilerplate approach to working a top pick into the starting lineup at the game’s most important and most difficult position to master. But most everyone would agree Stroud brings more to the table than Davis Mills and Case Keenum.
Keenum’s move to Houston underlined the writing that already existed on the Texans’ draft wall as it pertained to their quarterback plans. He was coming in as a veteran who could be a reliable backup and potentially start a few games if necessary.
He’ll be more of a tutor to Stroud than a competitor, though, provided Stroud digests Houston’s offense at an appropriate rate.
“It’s been something that I definitely knew that I needed,” Stroud said of Keenum’s and Mills’ guidance in his first few days as a Texan. “Just that guidance and confidence that they’ve had because they both played in the league and been starters. They’ve been very helpful and have been very appreciative and very supportive of everything. We have constant communication on and off the field.”
It’s early, but it sounds as if Stroud is progressing according to plan.
“C.J. has been the same from the pre-draft process to now — hard worker, very intelligent guy,” Ryans said. “He’s a true competitor. So, he’s been the exact same guy… but it is exciting to see him out on the field working with his teammates. C.J. has been doing an excellent job these past couple days.”
Mills isn’t going to recede to the bench without a fight. He told reporters Tuesday he’s going to compete for the job — even if it might not end up being that much of a competition.
“I’ve always been a very self-motivated person, I want to be the best player I can be,” he said. “But obviously, he’s kind of another stress factor, kind of pushing me to be my best.”
Still, we all know what the envisioned end result is: Stroud in the starting lineup, elevating a Texans offense that has sorely lacked a dynamic playmaker at the position since the end of the Deshaun Watson era.
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