How Much Should C.J. Stroud Play in Preseason Debut?
The rookie quarterback gets the start, but how long will he play?
The Houston Texans will open up their preseason with the New England Patriots on Thursday. When the team takes the field, rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud will take snaps first. Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans explained Tuesday why Stroud got the starting nod.
“It’s a preseason game here and it was my decision for him to go out first,” Ryans said Tuesday. “He’s been working with our first team for the past couple of days – continuing to stay on the same track.”
So, with Stroud getting the start, how long should he play?
While it would be ideal to see Stroud play a ton, let’s be realistic about what this first preseason game is in the grand scheme of the lead-up to the 2023 season.
The Texans have joint practices with the Miami Dolphins six days after the game against the Patriots. Then another preseason game days later. Then more joint practices in New Orleans with the Saints.
While there isn’t a tremendous amount of time to get Stroud ready, there are opportunities. The “test” if you will, isn’t next week, it’s next month. The Texans have to give their rookie a digestible amount of work. Stroud has to take in the info, digest it the best he can, and start working on the next elements of the offense.
The flip side is there are plenty of reasons to give C.J. Stroud a little more than just a series or two.
John Metchie and rookie Tank Dell are both receivers who should play pivotal roles this season. Neither has played in the NFL either. It would be useful to get the hopeful starting quarterback to work with two wideouts who will help the rookie quarterback this regular season. Veterans like Robert Woods and Noah Brown don’t need those reps. Nico Collins probably doesn’t either. Let Stroud work with Dell and Metchie, and even rookie wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson.
The NFL shortened the preseason from four games down to three games. There are only so many game opportunities for Stroud before Baltimore in week one. Yes, the joint practices are helpful, but that isn’t a game. Realistically there are two games where key players play, and Thursday against the Patriots is one of them. Let Stroud get used to how a game flows, even if it won’t be the same week one against the Ravens.
I would play C.J. Stroud into the second quarter. Especially if there is a long drive or two that saps some clock in the first quarter. Let him see a little bit of the opponent’s defense and give him a couple of chances to correct any mistakes he makes in his initial drives. That amount of playing time is a good balance between opportunity and overload.
What does DeMeco Ryans want to see when Stroud takes the field against the Patriots? It isn’t about the stats.
“I just want to see those guys not blink,” Ryans said. “I want to see them go out and continue to do what they’ve done in practice, not try to make too many big plays or try to put the team – it’s just about them focusing on their craft and what they’re doing. It’s nothing – I want to see guys go out there and not make it too big. I want to see that the game isn’t too big for guys. I want to see guys operate efficiently – guys fly around, have some fun playing the game.”
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