After stepping in for just two series in last week's preseason debut at New England, rookie C.J. Stroud played an entire half of NFL football against the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.
"Feel like I took a step," Stroud said. "Definitely got to clean up some things, but overall I felt like I got in a good rhythm, and I started playing football like I'm used to."
Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said all starters would play in the second preseason game, following two days of joint practices with the Dolphins this week. In his home debut, Stroud was 7-of-12 for 60 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs through two quarters of football.
"I think overall just with the operation of the offense, I thought C.J. was more efficient," Ryans said. "He felt more comfortable, and I think just everyone around him played better, which allowed him to play better. So I'm proud of the progression that C.J. took this week. That's what we want to see."
After LB Denzel Perryman intercepted Tua Tagovailoa on the first offensive play of the game, Stroud and the offense began their opening drive at the Miami seven-yard line. Two runs by Pierce moved the chains to the one-yard line, but a delay-of-game penalty and incomplete pass to TE Dalton Schultz on fourth-and-goal abruptly ended the drive.
"I definitely think we took steps as an offense," Stroud said. "It's frustrating when you don't score on the 1, but it was learning. I think any L that you take that you don't learn from, then it's a real loss. When you're down there, you've got to score and take advantage."
The bulk of Stroud's completions came on Stroud's second offensive series. The rookie QB completed passes to Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Schultz and Robert Woods on an 11-play, 61-yard scoring drive that ended in a 35-yard field goal.
"What I saw from C.J.'s throws was the ball was coming out on time," Ryans said. "It was very accurate, where the ball placement was very good. So it's encouraging to see him from week 1 to this week, to see the improvement just overall. Just seeing him more comfortable, and I saw him having fun playing the game. I saw him also being able to scramble out of the pocket and make a play. It's fun when you can see guys actually enjoying football, having fun doing it. If he continues to grow, we're going to be just fine."
In his preseason debut last week, Stroud played just two series before being replaced by Davis Mills and Case Keenum. After Stroud exited the game against Miami, Mills took over under center to play the second half.
"I think I'm taking steps every week," Stroud said. "I'm starting to see the game. It's starting to slow down for me, and I'm seeing things a lot more clean. In situations like that, the quicker I can get up there and diagnose the coverage, the blitz look or whatever it is, the more dynamic this offense will be."
The Texans will head to New Orleans this week for joint practices against the Saints on Thursday and Friday. Both teams will face each other on Aug. 27 to close out their 2023 preseason.