It’s little surprise the 21-year-old Stroud has been handed the reins to the starting job, though it has been a bit stunning that it took this long for Ryans to do so. Stroud is now the third and final 2023 first-round QB to officially take his team’s starting reins following No. 1 pick Bryce Young with the Carolina Panthers and No. 4 selection Anthony Richardson for the Indianapolis Colts.
Stroud, who started each of Houston’s preseason games, won out over Davis Mills, who compiled 26 starts over the past two seasons after the Texans took him in the third round of the 2021 draft.
This was always Stroud’s job for the taking, but Ryans had been adamant since the Ohio State product was drafted that a competition would take place. Stroud is now set to be the fourth Week 1 starting QB for the Texans in as many seasons. He’ll follow Mills (2022), Tyrod Taylor (2021) and Deshaun Watson (2020) when Houston opens its season Sept. 10 at the Baltimore Ravens.
The 24-year-old Mills, who proved to be a bridge between the Texans from Watson to their next franchise QB in Stroud, went 5-19-1 as a starter.
One could also argue Mills led Houston to drafting Stroud. Mills connected with Jordan Akins for a 28-yard touchdown and then found him once more for a game-winning two-point conversion in a Week 18 win over the Indianapolis Colts last season. The victory lost the 2023 top pick for the Texans, dropping them to the No. 2 slot. The Chicago Bears subsequently traded the No. 1 selection to the Panthers, who selected Young, leaving Stroud to become the Texans’ new hopeful face of the franchise.
In Houston’s preseason opener versus the New England Patriots, Stroud was besieged by a hard-charging Pats pass rush. Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, the former Buckeyes standout showed some marked improvement. In Sunday’s preseason finale Stroud played two series and on the second connected with WR Nico Collins on a crossing route for a 3-yard touchdown pass, the first TD of Stroud’s NFL career.
“I thought [Stroud] did a really good job tonight, and continued to progress,” Ryans said postgame. “Had a good week last week against Miami, and to come back out this week, the ball placement was very nice.”
While Mills was likely to offer a more poised and safer option for Houston out of the gate, Ryans has bestowed Stroud the opportunity to learn on the job and grow alongside his teammates, many of them youngsters, as well, such as wideouts John Metchie, Tank Dell and second-year running back Dameon Pierce.
The Texans tabbed Stroud as their quarterback of the future back on April 27, and that future is now.