NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts linebackers Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed had the challenge of facing Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud twice this season. Franklin and Speed discussed what their divisional opponent's quarterback is like, noting that he does not seem like a first-year player.

"Hell of a young player … hell of a player, period. Definitely a playmaker," Franklin said about the 2023 No. 2 overall draft pick.

Franklin said Stroud's ability to trick the defense is well beyond his age and experience level. The Colts LB said he noticed right away that Stroud was not the average rookie QB.

"C.J. don't play the rookie games bro. I peeped that the first time we played him. He don't do rookie shit," Franklin noted. "He played like he's already lying to you with his eyes, he's already lying to you with his drop, he's already lying to you with his shoulder movements … that's some shit that he ain't really supposed to have until like Year 6 or 7 buddy."

Stroud had two solid performances against the Colts this season, going 1-1 against them. The first meeting resulted in a 31-20 Indianapolis win. Stroud went 30-for-47 with 284 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the loss. 

The second time the AFC South teams faced each other was in Week 18 and this time the Texans came out with the victory. Houston won 23-19 and Stroud went 20-for-26 with 264 yards and two touchdowns. 

In discussing the final game of the season, Franklin noted a second-and-14 that Stroud turned into a first down. Franklin said when he saw Stroud throw the ball, he was certain it was going out of bounds, but instead he moved the chains. This type of situation is something Franklin has seen from the 22-year-old before. 

"He be doing shit like that all the time," Franklin said. 

Speed said one of the things that makes Stroud special is his ability to adapt. 

"He won't even be looking at the read and then you know he got about one more look before he gets ugly for him," Speed explains, adding that right after, Stroud will throw a completion.

"You know how degrading it is for a quarterback to hit his third read," Speed said.

Stroud helped lead the Texans to a dominant 45-14 wild-card win over the Cleveland Browns. In the win, Stroud went 16-for-21 with 274 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He played so well, that the team was able to put backup QB Davis Mills in to finish the game.

The victory was a record-breaking one, as Stroud became the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game. 

Stroud will hope his ability to extend plays, catch defenses off-guard and play at a higher level than his experience, like Speed and Franklin discussed, will get him another win this weekend. The Texans are set to face the No. 1-seeded Baltimore Ravens and another star quarterback in Lamar Jackson in the divisional round on Saturday.