Texans' C.J. Stroud pledges to learn from mistakes in preseason debut

HOUSTON -- Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud vowed to learn from his errors and "keep growing" after struggling in his preseason debut Thursday night.

Stroud went 2-for-4 for 13 yards with an interception in his two series as the Texans defeated the New England Patriots 20-9 in their first preseason game.

However, coach DeMeco Ryans said he wasn't concerned about his rookie quarterback's struggles and had a positive view on the No. 2 pick's performance.

"We all have things to clean up and get better at, but I thought it was a good first outing," Ryans said. "Good look at live action. I thought it was good for him."

Stroud called his debut "solid" and said his interception to Patriots safety Jalen Mills was "a learning opportunity."

"Just trust my eyes," Stroud said. "I seen a certain look to where I knew in film, that they could run that to where the safety, if his man blocks, he'll come off and really be locked into my eyes. I just lost track of that and just forced it. Should have just checked it down to Dalton [Schultz]."

Ryans said the interception is why live game reps for Stroud are vital for his overall development.

"With the interception, I think Mills made a really nice play, veteran player," Ryans said. "Made a nice play. We probably were a little late there with the ball, and it was a learning lesson, and that's why we do preseason. That's why it's important to get live game reps, so you can see how can you come out and improve, where can you improve, what do I need to do different next time on those certain plays, and of course offensively, we want to be in position to take care of the ball better. That's our No. 1 thing."

One reason for Stroud's struggles was the duress he faced, as he was pressured on 60% of his five dropbacks. The game's first play was a Stroud completion to wide receiver Nico Collins for 8 yards. But moments later, he was sacked by Patriots defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale, who was quickly in the Texans' backfield.

Three Texans offensive line starters didn't play, as Ryans held out left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right guard Shaq Mason, and right tackle Tytus Howard is out four to six weeks with a broken hand.

Stroud is currently in competition for the starting QB job against Davis Mills, and it appeared he was separating. Ryans gave Stroud all the first-team offensive reps in practice and started him Thursday night, as he showed better command of the offense.

But Mills had an efficient outing against the Patriots, going 9-for-12 for 99 yards and leading the Texans to seven points in the first half with a touchdown throw to rookie receiver Tank Dell.

Both quarterbacks' performances could allow the competition to linger. The Texans have joint practices with the Miami Dolphins before facing them in their second preseason game on Aug. 19.

In the meantime, Stroud will aim to correct his mistakes from his debut.

"Got to make a play smarter and not put my defense in a bad situation, put them right in field goal range, and that's my mistake," Stroud said. "Even though I'm a rookie, still trying to play as a vet and play sound football and not only protect my offense but to protect the defense, as well."