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Texans' Stroud takes beating in opener, sacked five times in 25-9 loss to Ravens

HOUSTON (AP) — This weekend, C.J. Stroud became the second rookie quarterback in franchise history to start an opener and first since David Carr in Houston’s first game in 2002.

And he, like Carr, took a beating.

Carr was sacked six times in the Texans’ inaugural contest, setting the tone for a season where the No. 1 overall pick was taken down an NFL-record 76 times.

Stroud, the second pick in this year’s draft, was sacked five times Sunday behind a makeshift offensive line as the Texans fell to the Ravens 25-9.

There was cause for concern entering this game after injuries decimated Houston’s line during training camp. The Texans had star Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, but the rest of the group was new on Sunday.

The result was a debut where Stroud was hit again and again. Along with the five sacks, the Ohio State standout was hit an additional 10 times in the loss.

One of the sacks resulted in Houston’s only turnover Sunday when Stroud was leveled by David Ojabo and lost the ball in the fourth quarter.

“We don’t want our quarterback hit as much,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We have to be better overall as a group in protection … how we help. I thought we had some really good snaps in protection at times but it’s just being more consistent in our protection, in our pickups.”

Stroud understands that his linemen are trying their best to protect him and delivered a message to them Sunday.

“Just keep fighting,” he said. “I’ll be OK. I’m going to keep getting up. I’m going to be OK. This isn’t my first time getting hit.”

He also acknowledged that he could do things to help them.

“I have to get the ball out … and make better reads,” he said. “So, it is a two-way street.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The Texans made pass rush an emphasis under Ryans, a former linebacker on the team. And the focus paid off in the opener when they had four sacks, including one that forced a fumble, and seven more quarterback hits.

“We are relentless,” rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr. said. “We were causing pressure all game up front. We were rushing together. We were trying to get each guy to do his job. We kept talking about keep rushing, keep rushing no matter what.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

As noted above, the offensive line was the team’s biggest problem in Week 1. After already dealing with multiple injuries to the group, the unit took another blow Sunday when right tackle George Fant sustained a shoulder injury late. He was filing in for Tytus Howard, who is out for at least the first four games.

So, if Fant can’t go against the Colts, Houston will be down to its third stringer at the position.

Ryans didn’t say who would fill in if Fant is out, but noted that players have been getting work at multiple spots on the line in practice to prepare for different roles because of the injuries.

STOCK UP

Anderson. The third overall pick in the draft had a sack in the fourth quarter Sunday to become the first rookie in franchise history to have a sack in an opener.

Anderson also had six quarterback pressures, which were the most by a rookie in Week 1 since Nick Bosa and Josh Allen had six each in 2019.

“Will has been who he’s been all training camp, and all preseason,” Ryans said. “(He) continues to cause havoc in the backfield.”

STOCK DOWN

CB Derek Stingley. The third pick in last year’s draft struggled Sunday in his return after missing the final eight games last season with a hamstring injury. He missed a tackle on a touchdown by J.K. Dobbins in the first quarter and his 17-yard pass interference call against Odell Beckham Jr. helped the Ravens to another score in the third.

INJURIES

S Jalen Pitre left in the second quarter Sunday with a chest injury. … DT Hassan Ridgeway injured his calf in the third quarter. Ryans declined to provide an update on the injured players Monday, saying he’d have more information Wednesday.

KEY NUMBER

9. The Texans had nine penalties for 88 yards Sunday.

“We just have to play cleaner football … if you want to win games, you can’t help the opponent,” Ryans said. “So (if) we can play clean operations on both sides of the football, then you have a chance to go and make plays to really change the game.”

NEXT STEPS

The Texans will look for ways to better protect Stroud better before they begin division play Sunday with a visit from the Colts and fellow rookie QB Anthony Richardson.

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