No. 2 pick CJ Stroud to start Texans’ preseason opener, which is a positive step

DeMeco Ryans has encouraged competition for the Houston Texans’ starting quarterback job, even if it seems obvious where that “competition” is headed.

CJ Stroud was the second overall pick of the NFL Draft. He’s the future, and the present, too. Davis Mills was the starter last season, but it would be a surprise if Stroud isn’t the Week 1 starter as a rookie. Yet, Ryans doesn’t want to hand Stroud the job. Last week he said the competition is still ongoing.

But Stroud will start the preseason opener for the Texans against the New England Patriots. Ryans told NFL Media that Stroud would start Thursday.

Even if that isn’t a big surprise, it’s a good sign.

If Mills got the first start, it might indicate Stroud was behind a bit in picking up the offense or the speed of the NFL game. That doesn’t appear to be the case, and even though Ryans is making Stroud earn the job in camp and preseason, he has had praise for the rookie.

“With Stroud, what I’ve seen is improvement,” Ryans told Houston media last weekend. “As I talk about each day, what we ask from all our players is seeking improvement. That’s what you’ve seen from him. He continues to improve.”

The Texans’ approach with Stroud is different than the Carolina Panthers, who named top overall pick Bryce Young the starter as camp opened and aren’t going to even pretend there’s a competition. But both teams will probably end up in the same place by Week 1.

Stroud could take a step back in the competition by struggling against the Patriots. It would put the coaching staff in a bind of whether to pull back on the rookie and start Mills in the second preseason game, or hope Stroud gets better. But if Stroud plays well against the Patriots and the rest of preseason, it seems obvious he’d be the starter to begin the regular season.

Stroud was drafted to be the Texans’ quarterback of the future. All of the signs are positive to this point.

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) between passing drills during the NFL football team's training camp, Sunday, July 30, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) stands between passing drills during the team’s training camp, Sunday, July 30, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

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