The Houston Texans found a franchise quarterback when they drafted C.J. Stroud second overall last year. Besides playing like a seasoned veteran right off the bat, Stroud played a huge role in the team's turnaround. Looking back, the Jacksonville Jaguars might've probably taken him lightly the first time they faced him, getting beat 37-17.
Stroud said on The Pivot Podcast that he felt disrespected by how the Jags defended him in Week 2, arguing that pretty much every other team he faced in 2023 treated him like a veteran quarterback while the Jags treated him like a rookie.
"We played Week 3 against Jacksonville, I went trim on them boys," Stroud said. "The thing that was crazy about it is because I have so much respect for Jacksonville, right? I think they came in, oh, that's a rookie quarterback, and that was the last time that happened. We played the Steelers in Week 4, didn't treat me like a rookie, the rest of the season, I never got treated like a rookie quarterback because they would just blitz me, blitz me, blitz, me. I would just pick it apart."
"You blitz me, I'm gonna go there." Like I just played the game against DC. You want to take this away, I'm gonna be smart, take the check now. And it took about like three weeks, four weeks to get used to that. I was always trying to take the shot, trying to get squeezed a little window, like sometimes, just taking a completion definitely helped."
After a 0-2 start, the Texans steered the ship in the right direction and went on to make the playoffs and win the AFC South. While Stroud wasn't the sole reason for their success last year, he surely played a huge role. As he said on The Pivot, he made the most of the Jags' decision to take their guard off in Week 3, going 20-of-30 for 280 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Although the Texans lost their second game against the Jaguars last year, they were overall the better team. Stroud in particular finished strong, completing 63.9 percent of his passes for 4,108 yards with 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His final stat line looks even better when you take into account that three of his five picks came in the win over the Arizona Cardinals. Here's Stroud's full appearance on The Pivot Podcast.
The Jacksonville Jaguars also have a franchise QB in Trevor Lawrence
The Jaguars were favored to win the AFC South before the 2023 season started. However, they came up short. The front office's inability to restock the roster, along with the coaching's staff failure to put their players in a position to succeed were two of the main reasons. Conversely, Houston entered the year with no expectations but ended up being much better than anticipated.
Now, the Texans are the team to beat in the AFC South, while the Jags sit in second place trying to catch up with their division foe. Fortunately for them, they don't have to start from scratch. They have several building blocks in place, including Trevor Lawrence.
With Lawrence behind center, they managed to capture the AFC South in 2022. Unfortunately, injuries held him back last year. Granted, he turned the ball over more than the Jaguars would've liked but he also had to put the team on his shoulders because the talent level around him was less than ideal.
It's fair to assume that Lawrence can rebound in 2024 and continue his quest for a place in the upper echelon of top quarterback in the NFL if he's healthy and the team's brass surrounding him with more talent in the offseason.
C.J. Stroud is currently the talk of the town and rightly so. It will be up to the Jacksonville Jaguars to rejoin the conversation as one of the best teams in the NFL. Beating the Texans and Stroud would most definitely help their cause.