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Texans shrug off higher expectations after offseason moves

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HOUSTON (AP) — C.J. Stroud was still asleep in Los Angeles when the news broke that the Houston Texans were trading for star receiver Stefon Diggs.

When the quarterback picked up his phone and saw several messages from friends asking how he was feeling, he thought they were just checking up on him.

He was still half asleep when he responded to about five such texts with some version of: ‘I’m good fam, how are you?’"

A few minutes later he got up, brushed his teeth, washed his face and checked social media.

“Then I seen the news … and I’m like: ‘oh shoot, that’s what they’re talking about,’” Stroud said with a laugh Monday.

Then, Stroud’s day, of course, went from good to great.

“I was very excited,” he said beaming.

Diggs was traded from Buffalo to Houston April 3, giving last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the Year another playmaker to throw to and vaulting the Texans into the Super Bowl conversation.

“He’s been a great player in this league for a long time, well respected,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “He’s been a great teammate, he’s been a leader, a captain. And, when you look at him and watch the tape … no one doubts the playmaker that he is. He changes games for the teams that he’s been a part of and we’re anticipating the same thing for us.”

He wasn't made available to reporters on the first day of Houston's voluntary offseason work.

Diggs is a four-time Pro Bowler, who was an All-Pro in 2020. He has had at least 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past six seasons and finished with 1,183 yards receiving last season.

Some have criticized Diggs because he started hot last season, with five 100-yard games in the first six weeks before his production tapered off and he didn’t have another 100-yard game the rest of the way.

Ryans said they aren’t at all concerned about that.

“We look at a player in totality,” Ryans said. “We don’t look at this amount of weeks or that … we look at the entire season, we look at the guy’s entire career, what he’s done. He’s been productive.”

The Texans made a complete turnaround last season thanks in large part to the additions of Stroud and Ryans as well as AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson. Houston, which had won just 11 games combined in the three previous seasons, won the AFC South and a wild-card playoff game against Cleveland before falling to the Ravens in the divisional round.

Now they add Diggs to an offense that will also feature a new running back after Joe Mixon was acquired in a deal with Cincinnati. The fresh faces join a group that was led last season by Nico Collins, who had a career-high 1,297 yards receiving, and Tank Dell, who had 709 yards receiving and seven TD grabs before his electric rookie season ended with a broken leg in his 11th game.

Ryans said Dell has recovered from his injury and he’s looking for big things from the third-round pick in his second season.

“That was a devastating loss for us last year, losing him,” Ryans said. “He’s such a dynamic player for us, such an inspiration for myself, for a lot of our team. So, I’m excited to just to see Tank back working with our guys and excited to see him make that same jump that I talked about in Year 1 to Year 2.”

Stroud, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, first met Diggs at the Pro Bowl and has already got to work at building a relationship with his new receiver. Diggs, Dell and Houston receiver John Metchie have already spent time together working out and catching passes from Stroud since the trade.

Stroud ranked eighth in the NFL last season with 4,108 yards passing and he had 23 TD passes with just five interceptions. He’s eager to see how the offense will look with the addition of a player of Diggs' caliber.

“He adds a ton of value to that room,” Stroud said. “He has a lot of a wisdom that he carries that I think he’ll spread to other guys. He’s been reaching out to really everybody, and I think that whole room in general is going to be great. I think we’re all going to eat off each other.”

While that has created a buzz outside of NRG Stadium, Ryans and his team haven't paid it any mind.

“The expectations from outside don’t permeate inside our building,” Ryans said. “What wins games for us is when everybody is really striving, putting the work in to be better. And that’s what it’s all about. We don’t care about expectations. Talk doesn’t win games. We have to go out and play good football when that time comes.”



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