When Does the QB Competition End?
How soon can C.J. Stroud cement his position as the team's top quarterback?
“The process with all our players is to come out, improve, and get better each day. 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.”
The fall is almost here.
Head Coach DeMeco Ryans has made it clear multiple times in his short tenure as a head coach. There are no starters right now. It’s easy to place a few players and know they are starters. Larmey Tunsil will be the starting left tackle by just showing up.
When training camp begins, there will be a competition for the starting quarterback job.
Despite spending the second selection in the 2023 NFL Draft on a quarterback the Houston Texans have not handed C.J. Stroud the starting quarterback job. He will have to earn it. Stroud will have to defeat third-year signal caller Davis Mills in a competition that for sanity’s sake doesn’t last more than a few weeks.
So, how does Stroud win the job and defeat Davis Mills? Let’s talk about it.
The Texans have taken a systematic and slow approach to bringing C.J. Stroud along. I appreciate the direction the organization started with Stroud. It seems like he did too. There was an emphasis on the basics.
“There is a lot of different communication, right,” DeMeco Ryans said in the offseason. “Simple things for these guys is getting in the huddle, saying a play call, coming out of the huddle.”
Gone are the days of pictures on a playboard from the sideline and simple hand signals. Offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik will spout full paragraphs to his quarterback who will then shout it in the huddle to his teammates.
The basics, though complicated, come first.
“They've been very methodical and want to get me to learn it step by step, just like how they would teach anybody else,” said Stroud. “I feel like I’ve tried to do a lot of work on my own, so when I come back the next day, I have that to put in the bank to be able to move on to the next install, whatever it is.”
The between-the-ears aspect of the battle is where Stroud finishes beating Mills in this competition. The mental matchup between the two is where Mills can hang on initially. Mills has more NFL experience. He knows what to expect in training camp. If Stroud passes Mills with the offense mentally, the job will quickly and officially be his.
Stroud said in the offseason he wasn’t worried about working with the first team. I wasn’t either. He of course did finish minicamp running with the first team, but Ryans explained that was a predetermined rotation between the quarterbacks. If the rotation stays in place, it could be Davis Mills with the first team this week.
When training camp opens, it will be imperative Stroud displays everything which made him the second selection in the draft, and then some, to end this competition he is unable to lose. The sooner the better for Stroud’s 2023.
The early reps, if the team still feels like they did in the offseason, are fairly equal regardless of who is on the field. There does become a tipping point where it is more beneficial to the future of the franchise to have Stroud take reps than Mills.
The majority of reps with the first team, and against the first team, in pads, is an early benchmark. The next true benchmark is when the Miami Dolphins come to town for joint practices. Surely Stroud can display a grasp of the NFL approach by then to dominate the reps.
NFL practices have decreased in usefulness over the years. As the league has looked to extend the length of careers, practices have lost value. Players get better from games and game situations. The padded practices and joint practices are the reps Stroud needs to own.
It would shock and surprise me if the Miami Dolphins arrive in the middle of August and there is a split in the reps. Remember, the announcement may lag behind the actual rep split, but we will have you covered here on Houston Football with all the latest from the quarterback competition.
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