(Photo credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
A good number of eyeballs around the league were focused intently on Atlanta, Baltimore and Indianapolis last weekend, scrutinizing the career-opening performances of the top three quarterbacks selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.
And while Carolina quarterback Bryce Young, Houston rookie signal caller C.J. Stroud and the Colts' Anthony Richardson all acquitted themselves well, they shared something else in common from their professional debuts: each tasted defeat.
In Week 2, Stroud and Richardson will square off against one another when the Texans face the visiting Colts on Sunday. Interest remains intense for the second and fourth overall selections, respectively, in terms of adaptability and the fact that one is likely to steer his team to victory for the first time.
For Richardson and Stroud, advancing that goal involves remaining upright and avoiding dangerous hits. The Ravens sacked Stroud five times, tied for the third-highest total from Week 1. Richardson absorbed four sacks plus additional blows while scrambling for 40 yards and a touchdown, hits that drew the attention of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who advised Richardson to learn the art of protecting himself to prolong his career.
"I think it's just eliminating the big hits," Colts coach Shane Steichen said. "When you can get out of bounds, get out of bounds and be smart. There's a time and place for it. You've got to be smart, it's a long season. Take care of your body."
Richardson was otherwise impressive. He not only ran for a score but also completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Michael Pittman Jr. He passed for 223 yards, completed 24 of 37 attempts and showed the promise that enticed the Colts to draft Richardson and peg him as their starter.
"Very encouraged," Steichen said. "I thought he did a really nice job and went to the right spots with the football. The completion percentage was good. We had some shots down the field, and he was smart with the football. They didn't give them to us, and he checked it down.
"There's little details to clean up like there will be every week but I feel encouraged with his first performance."
Stroud failed to lead the Texans into the end zone during their 25-9 loss in Baltimore, but he flashed the poise and acumen that led to him earning the starting nod during the preseason.
Despite being under duress behind a makeshift offensive line compromised by injuries, Stroud finished 28-for-44 for 242 yards. He committed one turnover -- a lost fumble -- but the hallmarks of his nascent game were showcased, primarily his ability to get the ball out on time and accurately.
Progress is a process for Richardson and Stroud, and understanding that should facilitate growth.
"Creating a successful offense, it takes patience," Stroud said. "Of course, no one wants to hear, even I don't want to hear that, but it's the truth. It's just being better on my part. I have to control what I can control and be as best as I can getting guys in and out the huddle and things like that.
"Just practicing harder and making it (as) game-like as possible in practice. ... Just practicing better and just getting better on my part is what I gotta do."
Texans linebacker Neville Hewitt (illness), tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) and safeties Jalen Pitre and Jimmie Ward (hip) didn't practice on Wednesday. Receiver John Metchie III (hamstring) and tight end Dalton Schultz (thigh) were among those limited.
For the Colts, guard Quenton Nelson missed Wednesday's practice with a toe injury, while tight end Drew Ogletree was a non-participant due to a concussion.
--Field Level Media