Texans QB C.J. Stroud developing quick chemistry with WR Tank Dell
C.J. Stroud got his wish during the 2023 NFL draft.
After Houston picked Stroud second overall on Day 1, the former Ohio State quarterback quickly made some of his first headlines with the Houston Texans when news broke that he lobbied both coach DeMeco Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio to take speedy wide receiver Tank Dell from the University of Houston. The Texans drafted Dell 69th overall in Round 3 and is the first offensive weapon deliberately chosen to pair with Stroud.
To their credit, Houston was interested in Dell long before Stroud received a Texans uniform from commissioner Roger Goodell. They hosted the wide receiver/punt returner for a top-30 visit and attended the Houston pro day during the pre-draft process. Despite his small stature at 5-8, 165 pounds, Dell had 1,398 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns during his last year with the Cougars as one of the most productive receivers in football. There was also a general belief that he could contribute to an already strong special teams unit.
He was an explosive threat for both offense and kick return teams at Houston and that same explosiveness was quickly recognized by Stroud when the two were able to work together at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Few could have imagined that moment would help contribute to their pairing together in the NFL.
WR Tank Dell catches a pass during group install portion of Tuesday’s OTA. pic.twitter.com/0jO5NmBqUY
— Drew Dougherty (@DoughertyDrew) May 23, 2023
Dell is a dynamic route runner that should work perfectly with the quarterback many heralded during the pre-draft process as the most accurate passer in his class. He brings a burst and quickness that was desperately needed in the group prior to the draft. Speaking at the podium on Tuesday, Stroud was quick to say that the two are wasting no time on strengthening their new relationship.
“Yeah, it’s been going great,” Stroud said of working with Dell since drafted. “We’ve been hanging out in the hotel, just going over scripts, getting the plays down together. It was great to be not only by myself, but with a great rookie class. Not only just football players, but human beings. Tank has done a great job, very vocal, wants to be better, wants to know what we like so he can run a route a certain way, wants to get right with the coaches. He’s just very, very in tune with what we want, and he wants to just be great. So it’s amazing to be with him. He’s very like-minded.”
Rookie wide receiver-quarterback pairings have had good success over recent years in the NFL. Most notably, Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins were drafted together in 2020 and have since formed one of the most dominant passing connections in the AFC.
Stroud knows his success will be largely dependent on developing quick rapport with players like Dell and the rest of the receiving group and he acknowledged that as well when speaking towards adjustments in the new offense.
“For me, I’m trying to get better,” said Dell. “It’s not about being with the ones, being with the twos, just getting better. That’s what spring is for. Getting the timing down. Learning my receivers, learning Tank, learning [Robert] Woods learning how Nico [Collins] runs his routes, learning how Dalton [Schultz] run his routes just anybody I can learn from.”
Houston’s receiver group is currently considered one of the weakest in the NFL entering the 2023 campaign. If Stroud and Dell can fully develop into the relationship that started way back in March, it’s quite possible the perception could change quickly.
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