Texans, Colts battle in showdown of rookie QBs

Field Level Media

September 15, 2023 at 11:32 pm.

A good number of eyeballs around the league were focused intently on Atlanta, Baltimore and Indianapolis last weekend, scrutinizing the career-opening performances of the top three quarterbacks selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.

And while Carolina’s Bryce Young, Houston’s C.J. Stroud and the Colts’ Anthony Richardson all acquitted themselves well, the first, second and fourth overall picks shared something else in common from their professional debuts: Each tasted defeat.

In Week 2, Stroud and Richardson are slated to square off against one another when the Texans host the Colts on Sunday.

However, Stroud showed up on the injury report Friday with a sore throwing shoulder. He wasn’t listed the previous two days. Houston termed him as questionable for the contest.

For Richardson and Stroud, remaining upright and avoiding dangerous hits are paramount to success. The Ravens sacked Stroud five times, tied for the third-highest total from Week 1. Richardson absorbed four sacks plus additional blows while scrambling for 40 yards and a touchdown, hits that drew the attention of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who advised Richardson to learn the art of protecting himself to prolong his career.

“I think it’s just eliminating the big hits,” Colts coach Shane Steichen said. “When you can get out of bounds, get out of bounds and be smart. There’s a time and place for it. You’ve got to be smart, it’s a long season. Take care of your body.”

Richardson was otherwise impressive. He not only ran for a score but also completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr. He passed for 223 yards, completed 24 of 37 attempts and showed the promise that enticed the Colts to draft Richardson and peg him as their starter.

“Very encouraged,” Steichen said. “I thought he did a really nice job and went to the right spots with the football. The completion percentage was good. We had some shots down the field, and he was smart with the football. They didn’t give them to us, and he checked it down.

“There’s little details to clean up like there will be every week but I feel encouraged with his first performance.”

Stroud failed to lead the Texans into the end zone during their 25-9 loss in Baltimore, but he flashed the poise and acumen that led to him earning the starting nod during the preseason.

Despite being under duress behind a makeshift offensive line compromised by injuries, Stroud finished 28-for-44 for 242 yards. He committed one turnover — a lost fumble — but the hallmarks of his nascent game were showcased, primarily his ability to get the ball out on time and accurately.

Progress is a process for Richardson and Stroud, and understanding that should facilitate growth.

“Creating a successful offense, it takes patience,” Stroud said. “Of course, no one wants to hear, even I don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. It’s just being better on my part. I have to control what I can control and be as best as I can getting guys in and out the huddle and things like that.

“Just practicing harder and making it (as) game-like as possible in practice. … Just practicing better and just getting better on my part is what I gotta do.”

Davis Mills is listed as Houston’s No. 2 quarterback. Last season, he tied with Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys with an NFL-worst 15 interceptions while throwing for 3,118 yards and 17 touchdowns.

The Texans also listed standout offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) and linebacker Neville Hewitt (illness) as questionable and ruled out safeties Jalen Pitre (chest) and Jimmie Ward (hip).

For the Colts, guard Quenton Nelson (toe) and tight end Drew Ogletree (concussion) are listed as questionable.

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