Texans’ C.J. Stroud throws interception on first drive in rough debut

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By Susan Comstock

On the plus side, things can’t get much worse for C.J. Stroud the next time he’s on the field. 

The No. 2 overall pick of the Houston Texans struggled in his first NFL game on Thursday night, throwing an interception on his first drive in their 20-9 preseason-opening win against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. 

He also finished 2-for-4 passing with 13 yards and a 17.7 quarterback rating. 

“I’m critical of myself,” Stroud said. “But that is what being a quarterback and a rookie quarterback is. I hold myself to a different standard and I know that the guys in the locker room aren’t going to hold me down for this. … One mistake on national television blows it all up. But, it’s cool, I’II just keep growing.”

On a third-and-21 situation from Houston’s own 25 on the opening series, Stroud stepped back into the pocket and slung to the near side of the field only to have New England Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills easily pick off the attempt.

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The play before, Stroud reminded everyone of his rookie status when he held the ball a bit too long and was gobbled up by defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale for a sack and a 15-yard loss. 

“I want to be perfect, but that is what this camp and preseason is for, just to make mistakes,” Stroud said. “So when it comes to regular season, I don’t make those anymore.”

The lone highlight of the rookie signal-caller’s opening drive was his first pass attempt of the game when he hit Nico Collins for an eight-yard gain. 

Stroud didn’t do much better during his second series of the game — which ended after five plays and one five-yard completion — and he came out after the drive wrapped up with a punt. 

The former Ohio State quarterback is locked in a battle for the starting job with 2022 starter Davis Mills.

New England Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings, right, reaches for Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023
Anfernee Jennings, right, reaches for C.J. Stroud during the first half of the Texans’ 20-9 preseason win over the Patriots.

Mills threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie Tank Dell, who made an impressive catch in the end zone.

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Mills — who started 15 games last season — finished 9 of 12 for 99 yards while playing the balance of the opening half.

Neither has been named the team’s No. 1 quarterback for this upcoming season, and after the performance Stroud had on Thursday, first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans is in for an interesting decision.

Stroud made a name for himself during his impressive tenure at Ohio State, which led him to his No. 2 selection in the draft.

C.J. Stroud struggled in his first NFL look.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Stroud was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist while with the Buckeyes as he threw for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns with just 12 interceptions.

The Texans have two more exhibition dates on their calendar before the regular season, and all eyes will be on Stroud to see if he can turn things around after Thursday’s lackluster performance.

— with AP

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