Quarterback C.J. Stroud got his first taste of NFL action on Thursday night against the New England Patriots. The Houston Texans No. 2 overall draft pick, who earned all the first-team reps in training camp recently, played just two series in his much-anticipated preseason debut.
"With the reps that CJ got, it was planned that way to get him 10 to 12 reps in this game just to get him some experience," Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said. "Get him his first NFL game and get him some NFL reps, NFL experience and that's the reps that we decided to go with for CJ."
Stroud started the game, but his drives ended in an interception and a punt. In his 12 snaps, he also completed passes to wide receivers Nico Collins and Steven Sims and rushed for six yards on two carries. Stroud's limited debut may not have led to a score, but it helped the rookie experience the speed of the game, make mistakes and learn from them.
"With CJ, I thought he did some things well," Ryans said. "It was good to see him when the play broke down, see him operate outside of the play, but as it was designed to see him move. That was good and it was also good to see him make a poor decision with the football. He had to pay for making that poor decision but it was good to see him learn from that."
Stroud came off the field following the intercepted pass, intended for Tank Dell, and immediately knew where the ball should have gone.
"If I could do it over again, I'd just take the check down," Stroud said. "That look isn't superb for what I threw. Just got to be better on my part. Got to make a play smarter and not put my defense in a bad situation, put them right in field goal range, and that's my mistake. Even though I'm a rookie, still trying to play as a vet and play sound football and not only protect my offense but to protect the defense, as well. Yeah, I would have just checked it down to Dalton after he checked flat and punted and hopefully got another drive."
Following his interception, Stroud wanted to come back for another series, but he'll have to wait until the Miami Dolphins arrive in Houston for a pair of joint practices and the second preseason game.
"As we move into our next week, what I'm looking for from C.J is just continue to see improvement, continue to see growth," Ryans said. "That's what he's done from OTAs all the way through training camp. So next week just looking to see him improve on his first game versus the Patriots, how can he improve in the second game? That's just what we're looking at. If you continue to improve over time, he'll be exactly where we want him to be."
The Texans will host the Dolphins for joint practices at the Houston Methodist Training Center on Aug. 16and 17 ahead of their preseason matchup. Kickoff from NRG Stadium is set for Aug. 19 at 3 p.m. CT.