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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Hard Count: C.J. Stroud continues to defy expectations in stellar rookie campaign

The Houston Texans’ rookie quarterback turned in a historic performance in a 39–37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Graphic for Reese Christian’s Column “the hard count”
Graphic by Molly Sullivan

The Houston Texans aren’t exactly a historically successful franchise. They’ve only made the playoffs six times out of their 21 full seasons of existence, and are the only franchise to have never played in a conference championship game. As a result, when there’s finally a hope for the future, it’s a big deal.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has brought that hope only halfway through his first season. He set a record for most pass attempts at the start of a career without an interception, and has guided the Texans to several impressive wins, including a 37–17 thrashing against division rival Jaguars earlier in the season. His, and the rest of the Texans’, efforts have been rewarded with a competitive 4–4 record, just one more victory would give the team the most wins they’ve had in a year since the 2019 season.

But it was this past week that cemented Stroud as a true future franchise quarterback and arguably already a top 15 quarterback in the league. Stroud managed a staggering 30 completions out of 42 attempts, 470 yards, and five touchdowns. Stroud also led the Texans on a remarkable 40 second, 75-yard drive to score the game winning touchdown with only six seconds to spare on the game clock. His performance set an NFL record for most passing yards in a game by a rookie quarterback.

Stroud’s performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all but solidifies his case to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, and also shatters the stereotype of Ohio State quarterbacks underperforming in the NFL. Although it’s early in the season, it’s just as easy to argue that Stroud hasn’t begun to reach his full potential, as it is to say these early games are a fluke.

Stroud’s showing thus far is even more impressive compared to the other rookie quarterbacks from this year’s draft class. Bryce Young, the Panthers’ rookie quarterback, picked No. 1 overall, has struggled mightily on a Panthers team that just won its first game a week ago (albeit against the Texans). Young has thrown only eight touchdowns to seven interceptions on the season, compared to Stroud’s 14 and one. The Young comparison is especially pertinent considering the Panthers passed on Stroud in the draft, who was taken in the very next slot by Houston.

Meanwhile, the Colts’ Anthony Richardson showed flashes of skill but then suffered a season-ending injury in his throwing shoulder. While he still has plenty of potential to live up to, Richardson largely confirmed his status as a “raw” prospect who will need time and experience to adjust to the professional level, and missing well over half of his rookie season will hinder that. Stroud, on the other hand, has looked natural in his first season in the pros, and should only continue to ascend in the ranks of the NFL’s elites as Richardson is still acclimating to the league.

For a franchise with one of the worst resumés in the league, C.J. Stroud is a beam of hope that the Texans finally have a true franchise quarterback to build a contending team around.