According to Steve Reed of the Associated Press.
C.J. Stroud still remembers the initial encounter between him and Bryce Young during a football game when they were both in eighth grade. The game took place on a rainy day in Fontana, California.
The Inland Empire Ducks, led by Young, emerged victorious over the Pomona Steelers, represented by Stroud, in a highly-anticipated all-star exhibition.
“They absolutely destroyed us,” Stroud stated. “He had a fantastic game. I played terribly.”
This Sunday, the Carolina Panthers led by Young will welcome the Houston Texans, who are led by Stroud and have risen quickly, as the two top picks in this year’s NFL draft and good friends reunite once more.
The first time they met was nearly ten years ago at a middle school game. Since then, they have faced each other in various sports competitions, including 7-on-7 football and basketball on the travel ball circuit. Along the way, they formed a strong bond and became close friends. They even attended quarterback camps together before Young went to Alabama and Stroud to Ohio State.
They silently supported each other’s achievements in college and relied on one another during the demanding NFL draft process. Ultimately, Young was chosen as the top pick and Stroud as the second.
“It’s truly a blessing to have a brother who shares the same struggles and pressures as I do,” Stroud expressed. “We often discuss these things during the offseason, so having him in my life is a true blessing.”
Young described it as “surreal” that they ended up being the top two picks.
“I will always support C.J., except for this weekend of course,” Young joked. “I cannot speak for C.J., but I believe he feels the same. We both want the best for each other and to see each other succeed.”
Stroud has been performing well in the NFL. He currently has the 10th highest quarterback rating in the league, with nine touchdown passes and only one interception. This has helped the Texans (3-3) to gain recognition and a sense of credibility.
Young has a record of 0-5 as a starting quarterback for the struggling Panthers, and his quarterback rating ranks 29th in the league.
However, both individuals are driven, ambitious, and resolute in their pursuit of improvement.
During the offseason, they continue to train together with their usual trainers in Southern California and frequently play against each other on the basketball court.
Stroud mentioned that our trainers advise against guarding one another as it can lead to excessive competition. The dynamic can become intense, with one person coming out on top one day and the other the next. The situation is constantly shifting.
Number three is also present.
Although Young and Stroud are the main focus of this game, it also showcases Will Anderson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft who was Young’s teammate at Alabama.
Similar to Stroud, Anderson has had a strong beginning for the Texans, who are showing signs of growth. He has been a starter in every game so far this season and has recorded 24 tackles, with two resulting in lost yardage, one sack, and eight hits on the opposing quarterback.
Nick Caserio, the general manager of Houston, is thrilled to see that the team’s top picks are already making valuable contributions.
Caserio stated that Will is a skilled football player and had shown his abilities at Alabama. Both players were drafted based on their talent as football players, which is why they are on the team. If they were not considered valuable assets to the team, other players would have been drafted instead.
Tank Dell, a receiver for Houston, is predicted to come back this week after sitting out the previous game due to a concussion. As a third-round selection from the University of Houston, he has been a standout receiver for the team this season. He currently holds the second-highest number of receiving yards (324) and has scored two touchdowns. Dell has also demonstrated his ability to keep plays alive and has gained 97 yards after making catches.
Texans coach DeMeco Ryans expressed the importance of having Tank back on the team. Tank has consistently made impactful plays in every game he’s played in and has become a reliable player for the team when they need a crucial play.
The person now in control has changed
The individual currently in charge has been replaced.
Last week, Panthers coach Frank Reich declared that he will be relinquishing play-calling responsibilities to coordinator Thomas Brown due to a winless start of 0-6. This will be Brown’s first time calling plays at the NFL level.
According to Reich, this was a planned action and not a consequence of the team’s performance. He clarified that it was his choice, not a decision made by owner David Tepper.
The overall appearance of the Panthers’ offense will not change significantly and Brown is still counting on wide receiver Adam Thielen, who is having an exceptional season at 33 years old.
Reich explained that Thomas is prepared to take on a leadership role and there will be a fluid dynamic to the team. Collaboration will still play a significant role, but Thomas will have the ultimate decision-making power. The staff will continue to contribute, but Thomas will be responsible for making the final decisions. The game-planning process will remain unchanged.
In the past two games, the Panthers defense has given up a total of 12 touchdowns, with the Detroit Lions scoring 42 points in Week 5 and the Miami Dolphins matching that score in Week 6.
According to outside linebacker Frankie Luvu, the issue is not with the scheme, but with the execution.
Luvu is optimistic that the bye week has given the Panthers a chance to regroup, but the truth is that the secondary has been greatly affected by injuries. Jaycee Horn, the starting cornerback, is still on injured reserve and it’s expected that safety Vonn Bell will also miss another game. Additionally, Jeremy Chinn, who was one of the team’s top players a few seasons ago, was recently placed on injured reserve.
HALL OF HONOR
On Sunday, the Panthers will honor former defensive end Julius Peppers and wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad by inducting them into the team’s Hall of Honor. Since acquiring the team from Jerry Richardson in 2018, the Panthers’ new owner David Tepper has taken a more active approach in adding players’ names to the stadium’s wall.