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New Orleans Saints defense prepares for Texans' veteran-looking, rookie quarterback

'I told the team that I think the quarterback is playing at a high level, and I'm not talking about a high level for a rookie'

Check out the game action shots from the New Orleans Saints game against the New England Patriots in Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season.

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick in the 2023 draft, has five NFL games on his resume.

It just seems like his five games have been more like five seasons.

What the New Orleans Saints (3-2) see from the rookie quarterback of the Texans (2-3) entering Sunday's game at NRG Stadium in Houston is a player whose performance has exceeded his experience.

Stroud has completed 114 of 186 passes for 1,461 yards (fourth-most in the league) and seven touchdowns, with no interceptions. His 186 attempts without an interception is an NFL record for a quarterback beginning his career.

He has been sacked 11 times and has run for 53 yards on 15 carries.

"I think he's playing at a very high level," Saints Coach Dennis Allen said. "I told the team that I think the quarterback is playing at a high level, and I'm not talking about a high level for a rookie. I'm talking about a high level for an NFL quarterback.

"I think he's doing a really good job of going through his progressions, I think he knows where to go with the football, he gets the ball out generally in rhythm and timing, does have the ability to improvise and make some plays on the move. I just think he's really operating their offense at a high level."

Significantly, Stroud has not turned over the ball. Since taking 11 sacks and fumbling three times in his first two games, recovering one himself, he hasn't been sacked or fumbled in the last three while throwing five touchdowns and averaging 278 passing yards, leading Houston to victory in two of the three games.

"He has played very, very well for a rookie quarterback," said Saints linebacker Pete Werner, who leads the team with 37 tackles and intercepted the first pass of his NFL career in the Saints' 34-0 victory over New England.

"In fact, he does not look like a rookie quarterback out there," Werner said. "I was with him at Ohio State. Unfortunately, he was never my quarterback there but I got to see a small sample size of him when I was there.

"He goes out there, he executes, he can use his feet very well but he's making very smart decisions and he's got some really good threats on the outside that he can go to and the run game is looking strong. It all starts through him and our defense has got to affect him to get the win on Sunday."

The Saints consistently have caused an effect, with 11 sacks, seven interceptions, 28 quarterback hits and 37 passes defensed.

Stroud, for the most part, has played unaffected, a characteristic that he displayed before entering the league.

"Me and my brother kind of talked about C.J. before the season started, before the draft and all that," Saints quarterback Derek Carr said. "We were talking about quarterbacks and like, we love this guy. The way he carries himself, the accuracy he throws with, all those things.

"I think the world of him, I think he's going to be a great player for a long time. And hopefully he continues his success, except this week. We want to win the game, but I'm a fan of his and love watching him and growing.

"The more film that gets out out there on him, the more defenses will try and figure out and know how to stop him, the more he just keeps pressing into his fundamentals and technique and the scheme and all those kinds of things. Keep that arrow going up for him."

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