HOUSTON (AP) — C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson are good friends who have known each other since high school.
“I love C.J.,” Richardson said.
“That’s my guy,” Stroud said. “I love him to death.”
On Sunday, the two quarterbacks will put aside those warm feelings when Stroud leads the Houston Texans against Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts.
“I’m rooting for him and I hope that everything in his career goes well, except for when he plays the Texans,” Stroud said with a laugh.
Despite the losses, both quarterbacks did some good things in their NFL debuts after Stroud was taken second overall in this year’s draft and Richardson was selected two picks later.
Stroud completed 28 of 44 passes for 242 yards and Richardson was 24 of 37 for 223 yards with a touchdown and ran for another score.
Indianapolis coach Shane Steichen said there was a lot to like about Richardson’s first game.
“He did a really nice job,” he said. “He went to the right spots with the football. The completion percentage was good. We got some shots down the field, and he was smart with the football. … There are little details to clean up like there will be every week, but very encouraged with his first performance.”
Houston coach DeMeco Ryans was also impressed with Stroud’s first time out.
“It was a tough place to play, a tough opponent,” Ryans said. “A lot of things were stacked up against him, but I thought he handled himself well.”
Richardson certainly learned a lot in his first NFL game, but perhaps the most important thing the dual-threat QB took from his first start was that he’ll need to slide more at the end of runs.
“I was a little sore,” he said. “I woke up with some feelings that I’ve never felt before. Some of the vets were like, ‘Welcome to the league, rook. That’s how it’s going to be.’”
Houston defensive end Will Anderson, who was drafted between Stroud and Richardson, made an immediate impact in his debut against the Ravens. He became the only rookie franchise history to get a sack in Week 1 when he took down Lamar Jackson. He also had six quarterback pressures against Baltimore, tying Nick Bosa and Josh Allen for the most by a rookie in an opener since 2019.
“It was fun,” he said. “I took in every moment, and I think the team did a really good job. Of course, we made some mistakes, but we just have to keep learning and getting better. We need to do a better job in the red zone, and we can be a really good defense.”
Indy’s running game struggled mightily last week without the top two backs, 2021 NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss. Richardson had 10 carries for 40 yards, while the rest of the team logged 16 carries for 25 yards. It could be more of the same this week.
While the disgruntled Taylor (ankle) is on the physically unable to perform and is out until at least Week 5, Moss’ status is unclear. He broke his right arm during training camp and didn’t return to practice until last week then was inactive for the Jacksonville game. Steichen wouldn’t even hint at whether Moss might play in Houston.
“He’s progressing well,” Steichen said Wednesday.
Houston receiver John Metchie is expected to make his NFL debut this week after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. The former Alabama standout returned this season after sitting out his entire rookie season undergoing treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia.
The Texans could use him to beef up their receiving group after Noah Brown was placed on the injured reserve with a groin injury this week.
COMING UP SHORT
Perhaps the biggest problem for Indy in the opener was its inability to convert on third and fourth down. Indy finished 2 of 12 on third down, 16.7%, and was 1 of 5 on fourth down, 20%. The numbers even included a failed quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches.
“I was a little (surprised) because it wasn’t a yard,” Steichen said. “We’ve got to be better there. We’ve got to keep getting better at it.”
It wasn’t just the late down situations, either. The Colts only scored points on one of three trips inside the red zone, though one of those misses came in the final minute of the game.