HIGH PRAISE

Here are all the ways Houston Texans QB CJ Stroud is breaking the mold

Texans CJ Stroud

CJ Stroud has been beyond impressive. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

There was a dull hue over the sky this morning. As I made my way to 59 heading north, I could see the sun shining brightly off in the distance to the right. The scene was pretty cool. Despite the imminent rain and rain clouds making the sky appear as if it was going to come crashing down at any moment, there was that bright beam off to the right letting us know everything would be fine.

That sunshine off to the right for the Texans has been C.J. Stroud. Despite the imminent rain of growing pains, with the rebuild still partially cloudy looming over this team, that beam of brightness has emerged as the thing that people will look forward to most. For years, this team has looked for a franchise quarterback. They've found a couple who were expected to fit the bill, but they haven't panned out for one reason or another.

Through the first three games of his career, he has the second most passing yards by a rookie, and has the most consecutive passes thrown without an interception in his first three games to start a career. Mind you, the offensive line is still in shambles. Four of the five guys expected to start this season in that position group are either hurt now, or won't return this season. The talk of not having a true number one at wide receiver has been bandied about. So has talk of possibly trading for one of the disgruntled running backs. I've even seen people who wanted other quarterbacks here change their tunes.

Add to all of this the negative stigma attached to Ohio State quarterbacks. From Art Schlichter to Justin Fields, there have been 12 OSU quarterbacks to play in the league starting in 1982. They've gone a combined 84-122-1. Two didn't have a career start (Cardale Jones and Joe Germaine). Former Heisman winner Troy Smith was .500 at 4-4, and only one has a winning record (Mike Tomczak 42-31). I won't bore you with their combined passing stats. Just know C.J. is already years ahead of the curve. He's breaking the mold of OSU quarterbacks being worthless at the next level. And he's doing so in impressive fashion.

I know this team has had a guy come in and look like a franchise guy before. David Carr was the good-looking all-American kid who was married with a family, but he was shell shocked and never panned out. Matt Schaub played very well, but caught the yips and never recovered. The last guy turned out to be an alleged pervert, despite seeming anything but previously. The difference I see in Stroud is he's such a student of the game. The way he talks about it and how others speak about his work ethic is remarkable. He talks about how his upbringing made him more appreciative of what he has. There's a calm about him that he must exude even in the huddle. His teammates have spoken about him as if he was named the starter and captain since he walked in the door. What other Texans quarterback has had that type of respect and command of the locker room this quickly?

For me, it was always his accuracy. Ball placement is more valued than arm strength. Anybody can launch the ball 60-plus yards in the air, or throw an out route that breaks fingers. But can you drop it in the bucket between two defenders and the sideline? Can you stay cool under pressure? Are you a laid back type of guy who likes to relax and have fun outside the spotlight? Would you split your NIL money with your teammates and make sure you don't take on too many, which could lead to a lack of focus, even though it may have cost you millions? Again, more reasons to like this kid.

Coleridge Bernard. C.J. QB1. The Franchise. Call him what you want. What you will do is respect this kid and how he's come to play.

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Yordan Alvarez is hitting fifth for the American League. Composite Getty Image.

Baltimore's Corbin Burnes will start for the American League in Tuesday night's All-Star Game against Pittsburgh rookie Paul Skenes.

A 29-year-old right-hander, Burnes is 9-4 with a 2.93 ERA in his first season with the Orioles, who acquired him from Milwaukee just before spring training. The 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner, Burnes is an All-Star for the fourth straight season. He will become the fifth Orioles pitcher to start an All-Star Game, the first since Steve Stone in 1980.

Skenes, who made his major league debut on May 11, is 6-0 with a 1.90 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 89 and walking 13 in 66 1/3 innings. The 11 starts for the 21-year-old right-hander will be the fewest for an All-Star and he will become the fifth rookie starter after Dave Stenhouse (1962), Mark Fidrych (1976), Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Hideo Nomo (1995).

NL manager Torey Lovullo announced last week he was starting Skenes.

AL manager Bruce Bochy of World Series champion Texas said Monday he has Steven Kwan of Cleveland hitting leadoff and playing left field, followed by Baltimore shortstop Gunnar Henderson, New York Yankees right fielder Juan Soto and center fielder Aaron Judge, Houston designed hitter Yordan Alvarez, Guardians shortstop José Ramírez, Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Rangers second baseman Marcus Semien.

Ketel Marte bats first and plays second base for the NL, followed by Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, Philadelphia shortstop Trea Turner, Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper, Milwaukee catcher William Contreras, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich, Phillies third baseman Alex Bohm, Dodgers center fielder Teoscar Hernández and San Diego left fielder Jurickson Profar.

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