Texans rookies Stroud, Anderson, Dell asserting themselves among the NFL's elite

J.J. Watt tells Pat McAfee he's torn on whether to root for T.J. vs. the Texans (1:31)

J.J. Watt says he's not sure if he should support his brother T.J. or his former team when the Steelers face the Texans. (1:31)

HOUSTON -- Since OTAs began in May, the Houston Texans' 2023 draft class meets Mondays for their rookie development meetings.

The meetings can last up to 45 minutes, and from the start of the sessions, the resounding message has been about "trying to be the change" for the organization.

"We're all here for a reason, and it's up to us to have energy every day. It's up to us to change the culture," Texans rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr. told ESPN. "It's up to us to show how this team is gonna [run]. We're the first class to start something new with coach [DeMeco] Ryans, and we know what he wants, and we know the type of culture and the type of standard and expectation he wants."

The Texans (1-2), coming off their first win of the season, are an organization attempting to climb back to the winning side of the table after going 11-38-1 record over the past three seasons. They drafted quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 overall pick in April, and followed that up by trading up for the No. 3 pick to take Anderson.

Through the first three weeks, the Texans have the most snaps by rookies (1,005) this season.

"When we first came in, we wanted to set the foundation," Stroud said. "We all said to each other they drafted us together for a reason. When we all play off each other, we all feed off each other. We set that standard that we weren't going to [accept] anything short of success here, and we're gonna bring hope to Texans' fans.

"On top of that, guys who we kept, were also great players as well. So it wasn't just rookies trying to hold that standard and set that foundation."

Stroud is fifth in passing yards (906), and his numbers through the first three weeks have been historic. He is the first quarterback to have at least 900 passing yards, four pass touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first three career starts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In addition, in the Texans' Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Stroud threw for 384 yards, which is second-most by a player age 21 or younger since the merger (1970), trailing only Matthew Stafford (422 yards) in 2009.

Stroud is also the third quarterback to throw for at least 900 yards in his first three starts, joining Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert (931) and 2015 MVP Cam Newton (1,012).

"We drafted the right guy." tight end Brevin Jordan said about Stroud after Sunday's game. "Man, he's a leader. He's a phenomenal player and a phenomenal guy with God-given talent. Dude, he's unbelievable."

Anderson is statistically keeping pace with some of the league's premier names as well. Even though Anderson only has one sack, he's been able to get to opposing quarterbacks. He has five quarterback hits (14th), and according to Next Gen Stats, Anderson is tied for the sixth most pressures (16) with Cleveland Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett. Anderson is also second in pass rush win rate (33.3%) -- behind only Dallas Cowboys defensive end Micah Parsons (40.4%).

The Texans have also seen early returns on receiver Tank Dell. But unlike Stroud and Anderson, Dell was taken in the third round. Dell didn't start Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, but he was inserted into the starting lineup after Noah Brown went on injured reserve (groin) after the opener.

"The rookies that we brought in, seeing them have to go out and play early. It's been it's been fun to watch these guys because of what they bring," Ryans said. "The reason why we drafted these guys is because, one, they love football, and that's the type of men that we want in our locker room, guys who are competitive, guys who want to bring it every single day because that's what it takes to be great in this league. That's what it takes to change things. It's a relentless mindset that those guys bring."

Dell had three catches for 34 yards in that game, but since then, he's had back-to-back games with a touchdown, and he led the Texans in receiving yards (145) -- the most by a rookie receiver in team history -- in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. His 251 receiving yards ranks 12th heading into Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

"We always harping on -- especially me, C.J., Will -- to come here to be a change to the program and the organization," Dell said. "We always motivate each other out at practice. Will comes by me and be like, 'Just keep motivating me,' and I'll do the same thing to him and C.J. ... We have been on that level with the whole team. It's been special."