Bijani: C.J. Stroud’s defense of Texans offensive line is admirable, must be reciprocated

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(SportsRadio 610) - It’s not in Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans' nature to make excuses.

He didn’t forge a 10-year playing career and become one of the NFL’s rising young stars in the coaching ranks with that in his repertoire.

Excuses don’t heal banged up quarterbacks.

They certainly don’t fix indefensibly bad offensive lines, but finding a short term solution ahead of the Texans getting some healthy bodies back in the lineup is of most importance.

“Guys are still going out trying to do the best that they can do, doing the job that we asked them to do,” Ryans said. “Of course, we don't want to see the quarterback get hit, but I thought the guys' offense took a move in the right direction today. They got better overall.”

Did they?

The quarterback has consistently been under pressure and the run game is still nonexistent.

Through two games, the Texans have amassed just 124 yards on the ground on 49 attempts. That’s an average of just 2.5 yards per carry, the worst mark in the NFL.

Dameon Pierce is their running back folks. He’s not perfect, but he’s far from the real problem.

Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has done nothing but progress each and every time he’s set foot onto a football field from day one of training camp.

Literally.

Stroud, 21, has been an absolute sponge and has consistently shown the propensity to put out whatever he’s taken in.

You are watching him grow up with your very eyes from one offensive series to the next and the maturity, poise and composure the No. 2 overall pick has shown thus far has maybe been the most impressive thing.

But, he’s not made of rubber.

Through two games, Stroud has already been hit 19 times, including 11 sacks and he’s had to work through a shoulder injury that nearly prevented him from playing Sunday.

Now, two weeks in a row, he’s had to defend a patch work offensive line responsible for making him one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league. Not to mention, a line that’s stifled what should be one of the stronger run games in the league with Dameon Pierce.

“I'm up for the challenge, and those guys are too,” Stroud said. “I appreciate those guys. Even Kendrick [Green], he comes in, and he's been here two weeks, and he's fighting his tail off. This is a whole new offense for him. Same thing with George [Fant]. Like Shaq [Mason] was our only starter. Like ‘J.P.’ [Jarrett Patterson] didn't play at all last year really and was a really good center in college, but this isn't college, and he's playing against a really good defensive line two weeks in a row, and he's fighting his tail off. Josh [Jones] was at guard last week. He moved to left tackle. That's a hard thing to do. This is the NFL. It's the best players in the world every week, you know what I mean?”

He’s not wrong, but the Texans have shown through at least through the first two games that they might’ve missed on a few of those so-called ‘best players in the world’ themselves.

Stroud has done a tremendous job of adapting to the quick-pass game with the help of receivers coach/passing game coordinator Ben McDaniels and first year offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik to somewhat offset the heavy pressure he’s been under.

In Sunday's 31-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Stroud completed 30 of his 47 pass attempts for 384 yards and two touchdowns while under heavy pressure much of the day.

Taking into account the faulty pre-snap operations and procedural issues that were on display a week ago in Baltimore, the offense, systematically, did take a step forward Sunday.

The Texans have got to find a way to get more out of the healthy bodies that they do have on the offensive line.

“I definitely appreciate those guys, because they're fighting, they're not just giving up,” Stroud said. “It's easy to put your head down in this league and just turn around and just do whatever, but those guys constantly are looking me in the eye like, man, I got you, and I appreciate that. I love those boys, and I'm going to keep fighting for them because they're fighting for me.”

Stroud needs look them back in the eye and ask them if that’s the best they’ve got, because it’s not good enough if it is.

The hope has got to be that left tackle Laremy Tunsil is back for the upcoming Jacksonville game in week three and that rookie center Juice Scruggs along with right tackle Tytus Howard return ahead of the week five game against the Atlanta Falcons and can then slide Jarrett Patterson over to left guard.

In the meantime, the current ‘group of five,’ if you will, must begin to reciprocate Stroud’s defense of their poor play. They’ve been dangerously bad and the rookie quarterback has admirably had their back.

It’s time they keep Stroud off his own.

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