No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud competing for Houston Texans’ starting job

May 23, 2023, 3:49 PM

Quarterback C.J Stroud #7 of the Houston Texans throws during the first day of Houston Texans Rooki...

Quarterback C.J Stroud #7 of the Houston Texans throws during the first day of Houston Texans Rookie Minicamp at NRG Stadium on May 12, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans aren’t simply handing C.J. Stroud the starting job despite drafting the quarterback second overall in this year’s draft.

The Ohio State star worked with the second-team offense Tuesday while last year’s starter Davis Mills ran with the starters.

“This team has been very accepting of me, very honest and very transparent and what I love about it is nothing has been given to me,” Stroud said. “I have to earn everything. Which I love. It’s been like that my whole career.”

New coach DeMeco Ryans said they’re a long way from deciding who will line up under center in Houston’s opener Sept. 10 at Baltimore.

“The process with all our players is to come out and improve and get better each day,” Ryans said. “And 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.”

But Ryans, the former San Francisco defensive coordinator, did rave about his rookie quarterback.

“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 of days.”

Stroud was a two-year starter for Ohio State, where he threw for 8,123 yards with 85 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Buckeyes went 21-4. His 85 touchdowns over two seasons broke a Big Ten record held by Drew Brees.

The Texans drafted him after failing to find a reliable quarterback in the two seasons since Deshaun Watson requested a trade and was sent to the Cleveland Browns. Mills has started most of the last two seasons, going 5-22-1 in 28 games with 26 starts as the Texans were among the NFL’s worst teams.

Mills understands that he hasn’t been good enough in his first two NFL seasons and without getting into specifics, he said he worked this off-season to improve his weaknesses. He said he’ll continue to compete for the starting job this offseason and that the addition of Stroud will push him to improve.

“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.”

The Texans also have Case Keenum on their roster after signing the 35-year-old veteran in the off-season. Keenum, who played for Buffalo last season, spent his first two seasons in Houston from 2013-14.

Stroud said both Mills and Keenum have helped him as he makes the transition from college to the NFL.

“It’s been something that I definitely needed,” he said. “Just that guidance and that confidence that they’ve had because they both played in the league and been starters. So, they’ve been very helpful, have been very appreciative and very supportive of everything. We have constant communication on and off the field.”

Stroud said he’s slowly learning offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s system and that he’s already built a strong relationship with quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson that has helped him adjust to the Texans.

But the 21-year-old knows he has a lot more work to do.

“I’ve done a decent job so far, but I’ve got to keep growing every day,” he said. “It’s not going to be overnight. I’m going to have growing pains and things like that, but I think they’re putting things around… the quarterbacks to be successful and lead this team to win.”

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No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud competing for Houston Texans’ starting job