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CJ Stroud, DeMeco Ryans reveal how Stefon Diggs impacts Texans offense

Texans CJ Stroud, DeMeco Ryans
The Texans now have the seventh-best odds to win this year’s Super Bowl. Composite Getty Image.

C.J. Stroud was still asleep in Los Angeles when the news broke that the Houston Texans were trading for star receiver Stefon Diggs.

When the quarterback picked up his phone and saw several messages from friends asking how he was feeling, he thought they were just checking up on him.

He was still half asleep when he responded to about five such texts with some version of: ‘I’m good fam, how are you?’"

A few minutes later he got up, brushed his teeth, washed his face and checked social media.

“Then I seen the news … and I’m like: ‘oh shoot, that’s what they’re talking about,’” Stroud said with a laugh Monday.

Then, Stroud’s day, of course, went from good to great.

“I was very excited,” he said beaming.

Diggs was traded from Buffalo to Houston April 3, giving last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year another playmaker to throw to and vaulting the Texans into the Super Bowl conversation.

“He’s been a great player in this league for a long time, well respected,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “He’s been a great teammate, he’s been a leader, a captain. And, when you look at him and watch the tape … no one doubts the playmaker that he is. He changes games for the teams that he’s been a part of and we’re anticipating the same thing for us.”

He wasn't made available to reporters on the first day of Houston's voluntary offseason work.

Diggs is a four-time Pro Bowler, who was an All-Pro in 2020. He has had at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past six seasons and finished with 1,183 yards receiving last season.

Some have criticized Diggs because he started hot last season, with five 100-yard games in the first six weeks before his production tapered off and he didn’t have another 100-yard game the rest of the way.

Ryans said they aren’t at all concerned about that.

“We look at a player in totality,” Ryans said. “We don’t look at this amount of weeks or that … we look at the entire season, we look at the guy’s entire career, what he’s done. He’s been productive.”

The Texans made a complete turnaround last season thanks in large part to the additions of Stroud and Ryans as well as AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson. Houston, which had won just 11 games combined in the three previous seasons, won the AFC South and a wild-card playoff game against Cleveland before falling to the Ravens in the divisional round.

Now they add Diggs to an offense that will also feature a new running back after Joe Mixon was acquired in a deal with Cincinnati. The fresh faces join a group that was led last season by Nico Collins, who had a career-high 1,297 yards receiving, and Tank Dell, who had 709 yards receiving and seven TD grabs before his electric rookie season ended with a broken leg in his 11th game.

Ryans said Dell has recovered from his injury and he’s looking for big things from the third-round pick in his second season.

“That was a devastating loss for us last year, losing him,” Ryans said. “He’s such a dynamic player for us, such an inspiration for myself, for a lot of our team. So, I’m excited to just to see Tank back working with our guys and excited to see him make that same jump that I talked about in Year 1 to Year 2.”

Stroud, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, first met Diggs at the Pro Bowl and has already got to work at building a relationship with his new receiver. Diggs, Dell and Houston receiver John Metchie have already spent time together working out and catching passes from Stroud since the trade.

Stroud ranked eighth in the NFL last season with 4,108 yards passing and he had 23 TD passes with just five interceptions. He’s eager to see how the offense will look with the addition of a player of Diggs' caliber.

“He adds a ton of value to that room,” Stroud said. “He has a lot of wisdom that he carries that I think he’ll spread to other guys. He’s been reaching out to really everybody, and I think that whole room in general is going to be great. I think we’re all going to eat off each other.”

The Texans, who were expected to be among the NFL’s worst teams entering last season, now have the seventh-best odds to win this year’s Super Bowl, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

While that has created a buzz outside of NRG Stadium, Ryans and his team haven't paid it any mind.

“The expectations from outside don’t permeate inside our building,” Ryans said. “What wins games for us is when everybody is really striving, putting the work in to be better. And that’s what it’s all about. We don’t care about expectations. Talk doesn’t win games. We have to go out and play good football when that time comes.”

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Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

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