LOS ANGELES — In one respect, C.J. Stroud cares very deeply. Witness his success as a record-breaking rookie quarterback for the Houston Texans.
In another respect, Stroud cares not at all.
"Some people develop it at a young age, where you're not concerned with other people's opinions," said Jordan Palmer, widely regarded as a top quarterback coach, who first met Stroud at the Elite 11 camp in 2019.
"Some guys are naturally like that. Some guys work hard with performance psychologists and therapy to get there, and a lot of guys arrive there through their faith. That's what C.J. is made of. He's not concerned with anybody's opinion of him right now."
If there were any time to revel in reputation, this would be it for Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick, who attempted 186 passes before his first interception. That broke the NFL record of Dallas' Dak Prescott (176) for the most pass attempts to begin a career without an interception.
It was but one of the many rookie highlights for Stroud, the Rancho Cucamonga High and Ohio State standout whose team will play host to surging Denver on Sunday. The Broncos, whose defense is smothering, have won five in a row after a 1-5 start.
The Texans, tied for second in the AFC South, are 6-5 and have doubled their win total from last season.
The preternaturally poised Stroud is a big reason for that. When given ample protection — no small consideration in light of Houston's constantly reshuffled offensive line — the 22-year-old quarterback almost always puts the ball in the right place. It's as if the game already has slowed for him.
"Sometimes rookies, it takes them a while to figure it out," said DeMeco Ryans, first-year coach of the Texans. "He's been impressive to where if you give him a coaching point, he's a very coachable young man. He takes that coaching point to heart, and he goes out and shows that improvement the next week."
Before their three-point loss to Jacksonville last week, the Texans had won three in a row. That began with a 39-37 victory over Tampa Bay in which Stroud threw for 470 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
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