(SportsRadio 610) - Sunday’s game against Indianapolis isn’t just the Texans’ home opener at NRG Stadium – it’s the first game featuring rookie quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson, the second and fourth overall picks in the draft.
Stroud and Richardson were drafted behind Carolina’s Bryce Young, and all three lost their NFL debuts. Stroud squares off against Young on Oct. 29 in Charlotte, N.C. Stroud and Richardson meet again in the last game of the season at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Ant is my guy,” Stroud said, using his nickname for Richardson. “Known him since high school. Competed against each other at Elite 11 and became real good friends there and kind of kept a relationship when he was at Florida and I was at Ohio State.
“(I’m) really happy for him. He’s always been a hell of a player, and (I’m) excited to see what he does in his career. I’m always going to be supportive of him and be a brother and a friend to him. I love him to death. He’s a great dude, so a shoutout (to) my dog, Ant.”
In the Texans’ 25-9 loss at Baltimore, Stroud completed 28-of-44 (63.6 percent) for 242 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass or an interception. He averaged 5.5 yards per attempt and finished with a 78.0 rating. He was hit 10 times and sacked five times for 46 yards in losses. He ran four times for 20 yards.
In the Colts’ 31-21 home loss to Jacksonville, Richardson connected on 24-of-37 (64.9 percent) for 223 yards. He threw one touchdown pass, ran for a touchdown and was intercepted once. He averaged 6 yards a play and closed with a 79.0 rating. He was hit six times, including four sacks for 8 yards. He led the Colts in rushing with 40 yards on 10 carries.
Like Stroud with DeMeco Ryans, Richardson is playing for a first-time head coach in Shane Steichen, who interviewed for the Texans’ job. Steichen did a tremendous job coaching Jalen Hurts with Philadelphia. A big part of Hurts’ success last season was his terrific running ability.
Richardson, 6-4, 244, is a dangerous runner with a powerful arm. He started one season at Florida before declaring for the draft and cashing in by being drafted fourth in the first round.
Asked what makes Richardson such a dangerous quarterback, Stroud said, “I think it’s his tenacity, and, of course, all of the physical traits pop out (and) he can sling the ball around. He has a great deep ball. He’s very accurate in the RPO (run-pass option) game.
“I think that’s hard to do, be accurate on top of having the run-pass option, which he does very well. He drives the ball really well. He’s very athletic and hard to bring down. He’s built like a linebacker, but he’s running a 4.3, 4.4. He’s built in a lab, and he’s going to bring it every time.”
Sunday’s game should be the first of many between Stroud and Richardson because they play in the same division.
“(Because) we were picked high in the draft and play against each other in the same division, it’s kind of cool,” Stroud said. “We’re going to compete against each other, and we both want to win. I think that shows what kind of competitive nature we have.
“I’m rooting for him, and I hope that everything in his career goes well except when he plays the Texans.”
In their loss to the Ravens, the Texans did a good job of containing quarterback Lamar Jackson. He ran six times for 38 yards. He threw for 169 yards, was sacked four times, suffered one interception and didn’t throw a touchdown pass. His rating was 79.5.
Playing against Jackson, one of the best running quarterbacks in NFL history, should have helped prepare the defense for Richardson.
“It’s always a challenge when you go against a running quarterback, and Lamar’s one of the (best) when you talk about athleticism and being able to create with his legs,” Ryans said. “It’ll be the same (Sunday) -- another quarterback who’s athletic. He can run the ball, so we have another challenge.
“Anthony has done a good job. Being a young quarterback (he) still has a lot to learn, as all rookie quarterbacks (do), but you can see the athleticism. He does a really good job of creating plays on the move. He can get out of the pocket (and) scramble. He’s big and strong, a tough guy to get down.”
Richardson may be built like a tight end, but he runs like a wide receiver. He also can make any throw on the field.
“When it comes to tackling, it’s not going to be one guy bringing Anthony down,” Ryans said. “It’s going to take multiple guys, and that’s what we’re about on defense. We definitely respect his game. Everybody (has to be) disciplined on defense. That’ll be the key.”
In the pre-draft process, the Texans scouted Richardson as they did Stroud and Young. They knew Young would go first to the Panthers. They put in a lot of time evaluating Richardson before electing to draft Stroud.
“As I watched him in the pre-draft process, you saw a very talented young kid,” Ryans said. “He was a big-time playmaker (who) made a lot of explosive plays at Florida. You saw a kid that also has a lot of room to improve, and you’ve seen that growth with the Colts. He has dynamic playmaking ability.”
If Ryans’ defense can keep Richardson from making too many big plays before a sellout crowd at NRG Stadium, it should give him a better chance to earn his first victory as a head coach.
John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on SportsRadio 610 and Monday, Thursday and Sunday on Texans Radio, also on SportsRadio 610. He writes five columns a week and does three Houtopia Football Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com.