Top two ’23 picks on display as Texans, Panthers meet

The Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers have broken in rookie quarterbacks this season with varying results.

It’s a storyline worth exploring compared to other issues facing the teams heading into Sunday afternoon’s meeting in Charlotte, N.C.

Carolina selected Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick in the spring’s draft. Houston took C.J. Stroud next.

Both teams were off last week. The Texans (3-3) beat the New Orleans Saints in their most recent game for their third win in their last four outings. The Panthers (0-6) are still searching for their first victory under coach Frank Reich.

Young will be involved with a different setup as offensive coordinator Thomas Brown has taken over the play-calling in place of Reich.

“There’s still going to be a lot of collaboration,” Reich said. “Thomas is going to be in charge. It’s not going to be micromanaged. The staff will contribute like they do, but Thomas will be (making) the play-by-play decisions.”

The switch was announced the day after Carolina’s loss at Miami in Week 6. That came at the beginning of the open week, so there has been time for that transition to take hold.

Brown, a former running back, said this marks another step in his career. Brown previously coached under Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams and appreciates getting the nod from Reich.

“So, giving me a chance to go through that, kind of express my ideas about the offense, what I’m going to bring to the table, and obviously continue to grow and learn from him, has been a great deal for me,” Brown.

Stroud has thrown nine touchdowns with just one interception. Yet the Texans have scored more than 20 points in only two games.

“With C.J., it’s the same, it’s resiliency,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said.

Houston hasn’t supported Stroud much on the ground, ranking 25th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (88.8).

Ryans said he would like to see better first-down production. But the key to keeping things in check for the Texans has come from an offense conscious about ball security.

“Our offense has done an outstanding job of protecting the ball,” Ryans said.

Even the Panthers have exceeded 20 points three times this season. Young’s toughness has been a positive trait in Reich’s evaluation.

“Six games into it, physical and mental toughness, he checks that box big time,” Reich said. “I think that is going to continue to grow and demonstrate itself. I’m sure he has never experienced anything like an 0-6 start.”

Carolina has allowed 42 points in each of its last two games.

Young, who has six touchdown passes and four interceptions, will be pursued by a Houston pass-rushing group that includes his former Alabama teammate Will Anderson, a rookie defensive end.

Carolina’s roster received a boost with right guard Austin Corbett activated. The team has used three starters at right guard this season. On the flip side, Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn will be out for up to six weeks.

Houston re-signed linebacker Cory Littleton this week, who was released by the team last week. Littleton played in 15 games last season for Carolina and has played on 64 percent of the Texans’ special teams snaps this year.

The Texans also designated defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway to return from injured reserve, opening his 21-day practice window.

The Panthers have won the last four matchups and are 4-2 all-time vs. Houston, which has won one of two visits to Charlotte.

This begins a stretch of three home games in four weeks for Carolina.