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NFL Preseason Week 3 Takeaways: Stroud Proved He's Ready to Start

Aug 27, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) scrambles out the pocket against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL preseason came to a close on Sunday night with the Houston Texans defeating the New Orleans Saints 17-13. Here are three takeaways from the Texans win:

Texans vs. Saints Takeaways

Stroud Finishes Preseason On High Note

If DeMeco Ryans needed any convincing that C.J. Stroud was ready to be the Houston Texans’ season-opening starter, the rookie quarterback from Ohio State gave it to him Sunday night.

Stroud, who played the first two series of the Texans’ 17-13 preseason win over the Saints, completed two of four passes and threw his first and only touchdown pass of the preseason, a 3-yard toss to WR Nico Collins to cap off a six-play, 43-yard scoring drive.

Earlier in the drive, he completed a 13-yard pass to the Texans’ new TE Dalton Schultz on a third-and-two play. He threw a nice deep ball to Collins on the Texans’ first possession, but the wideout couldn't haul it in.

It’s always been assumed that Stroud would start against the Ravens. After the game, Ryans officially named Stroud his Week 1 starter.

Stroud had had just one good series in the Texans’ first two preseason games. That was last week against Miami when he completed five of six passes for 52 yards on the Texans’ only scoring drive in a 28-3 loss. On the other four series that he played in the first two games, Stroud was four for 10 for 21 yards with and an interception.

Age Is Just A Number For Jimmy Graham

Jimmy Graham might be 36, but he showed Sunday he still can be a productive NFL tight end.

Graham, who signed a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints late last month after spending the 2022 season away from football, had three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown Sunday night.

Graham played the first four series against the Texans, including a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive that featured an impressive 25-yard catch by Graham over Texans LB Christian Harris and a 3-yard touchdown reception on a nicely executed boxout of CB Ka’dar Hollman.

The five-time Pro Bowler is expected to be one of three tight ends the Saints keep on their season-opening roster, along with starter Juwan Johnson and former Las Vegas Raider Foster Moreau. Lucas Krull, who spent most of last season on the Saints’ practice squad, made his case for a roster spot against the Texans, catching seven passes for 106 yards.

Graham has played 12 years in the league with four teams, including the first five years with the Saints, who selected him in the third round of the 2010 draft.

His 713 career receptions are the seventh most by a tight end. His 85 career touchdown catches are the fourth most by a tight end.

The five-time Pro Bowler played 21 snaps in the Saints’ first preseason game against Kansas City and had just one catch for 10 yards. He didn’t play in their second preseason game against the Chargers because of what the team described as a medical episode.

Grupe Makes Case For Saints' PK Job

Rookie Blake Grupe helped himself Sunday in his battle against veteran Wil Lutz for the Saints’ kicking job.

Grupe booted 50- and 38-yard field goals in the Saints’ loss. His only miss was a wide-right 60-yard attempt in the fourth quarter.

Lutz has been the Saints’ placekicker for six of the last seven seasons. He sat out the 2021 season with a core muscle injury that required multiple surgeries. He returned last year but underperformed, which is why the Saints brought in Grupe.

Grupe transferred to Notre Dame last year after spending four years at Arkansas State. He converted 14 of 19 field goal attempts for the Irish and all 49 of his PATs. He had made 64 of 86 field goal attempts (74.4 percent) at Arkansas State.

Grupe is just 5-7 and 156 pounds but has a strong leg. He has outperformed Lutz in practice on longer kicks.

Lutz didn’t have any attempts against the Texans but made all four of his field goal attempts in the Saints’ first two preseason games, including a 51-yarder against the Chargers last week.

Paul Domowitch covered the Eagles and the NFL for the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer for four decades. You can follow him on Twitter at @pdomo.