No. 2 pick Stroud competes with Mills for starting QB job with Houston Texans

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Houston Texans quarterbacks Davis Mills (10) and C.J. Stroud (7) low five during the NFL football team's training camp, Sunday, July 30, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

HOUSTON – Quarterback C.J. Stroud, taken second overall in this year’s draft, isn’t worried that the Panthers picked No. 1 selection Bryce Young as their starter on Day 1 of training camp while the Houston Texans are making him compete for the job.

“I’m happy for him, but his situation is his situation, and my situation is mine,” Stroud said Sunday. “So, I know that I’ve got to work on my end and do whatever I’ve got to do to make this team better. It’s not about the starter (or) who’s not the starter, it’s about getting better for Week 1 against Baltimore.”

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Stroud is vying with Davis Mills to be the team’s quarterback. The Texans have split first-team snaps between the two in the first few days of camp.

Houston drafted Stroud after Mills struggled as the team’s starter for the past two years after Deshaun Watson sat out following a trade request before being shipped to Cleveland before last season.

Mills went 5-22-1 in 28 games, including 26 starts, as the Texans were among the NFL’s worst teams.

Stroud is just the third quarterback the Texans have drafted in the first round, joining Watson, taken 12th in 2017 and David Carr, the team’s first draft pick who was taken first overall in 2002.

After using such a high pick on Stroud it’s hard to imagine that he won’t end up as the team’s starter. But for now, new coach DeMeco Ryans is adamant that it’s an open competition between the former Ohio State star and Mills.

While Ryans won’t answer questions about what Stroud will have to do to win the job, he’s had plenty to say about the dedication the 21-year-old has shown since joining the team.

“What you see about C.J. is the work and preparation that he does when he’s not here,” Ryans said. “He’s a true football junkie. He loves football, always watching football, always asking for extra cut-ups from our coaches. I’m so impressed with the mental part of him and just how much he loves the game of football. When a guy has that much love for the game of football, he’s (only) going to continue to get better.”

Stroud was a two-year starter for Ohio State, where he threw for 8,123 yards with 85 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions as the Buckeyes went 21-4. His 85 touchdowns over two seasons broke a Big Ten record held by Drew Brees.

Despite competing with Mills for the job, the rookie said that he and fellow quarterback Case Keenum have both helped him a lot as he’s made the jump from college to the pros.

“I’ve learned everything from Davis,” Stroud said. “Davis and Case are great vets. And just because we may be competing against each other, doesn’t mean that we’re not going to learn from each other. I’ve had a really great time being in the room with those guys.”

Stroud certainly knows what’s at stake for him in this camp, but he’s trying not to let the competition change how he approaches his job day to day.

“I feel like when you try to have a different mindset you confuse yourself,” he said. “So, for me, I just try to keep my head down and I work — just try to work harder and harder every day. Just trying to … be the best person I can be on and off the field.”

As Stroud prepares for his first NFL season, he certainly has plenty of goals. However, his approach to goals has never been to list only lofty, far down the road ones.

“I have goals written down,” he said. “I did it in college and I’ll do it now. But I have a lot of things that I put down, like really small goals. I think the more you can accomplish small goals in your life, the big ones can come kind of natural. And they come as you get the small ones checked off.”


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