Nate Sudfeld is in a strange predicament.
To prove himself as an NFL quarterback, he needs opportunities to play in the regular season. But for that to happen, either the game has to be out of reach or quarterback Carson Wentz must get hurt.
Sudfeld is embarking on his fourth season with the Eagles and fifth in the NFL. He agreed to terms on a one-year deal to compete to be the primary backup to Wentz in 2020. In the 2017 regular-season finale, Sudfeld played when the Eagles rested the vast majority of their starters ahead of the Super Bowl run and completed nearly 83 percent of his pass attempts, then an NFL record in a debut performance since surpassed in 2019 by Jacksonville's Gardner Minshew. In the 2018 regular-season finale, this time with the game well at hand, Sudfeld tossed his first NFL touchdown against Washington, his former team. Including playoffs, Sudfeld has been on the field for 54 snaps.
He entered Training Camp last year as the primary backup to Wentz for the first time, although he was the backup for the playoff runs in 2017 and '18. Then, Sudfeld suffered a fractured wrist on his left (non-throwing) arm in the preseason opener against Tennessee. The Eagles signed veteran Josh McCown, who played well in the preseason and never relented the backup job even after Sudfeld returned in time for Week 3 of the regular season. The injury jolted Sudfeld out of his Training Camp routine. All he could think about as he headed into the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field was that he needed to be on the field for the upcoming joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens. He couldn't work out for two weeks as it could affect the recovery. Admittedly, he felt disconnected from the team.
"It's not a fun thing. It can make or break guys for sure," Sudfeld said. "It can hurt their confidence or affect their outlook. I was determined not to let that be the case for me. I just wanted to make sure I was improving myself and being ready if ever called upon. It was one of the more challenging things I've had to do in my career, but I felt like I still got a lot better throughout the year."
Sudfeld was inactive for a total of 10 games after he returned, including the playoff loss to Seattle. Sudfeld thought that the coaches still believed in him. That was a key reason why the 26-year-old rejoined the team on a one-year deal, agreed upon before the start of the new League Year.
"I'm very excited to come back. I just feel like I have unfinished business in Philadelphia. I feel wanted. I feel like I've got things I still really want to accomplish and I'm really excited about the new coaching dynamics," Sudfeld said. "I'm excited to have Press (Taylor, passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach) back. I have a great relationship with him. I believe a lot in him as a coach. There'll be a lot of familiarity, but I think there'll be a lot of newness and freshness to the offense that I'm looking forward to."
The Eagles promoted Taylor and hired Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. Sudfeld believes that Scangarello's background with Kyle Shanahan and with it the ability to marry the passing game and the running game will benefit him greatly.
"I feel like there's going to be a breath of fresh air into the offense with some new perspectives," Sudfeld said. "I couldn't be more excited about the coaching dynamic."
Right now, the Eagles have Wentz, Sudfeld, and Kyle Lauletta, a former draft pick of the Giants who spent last season on the Eagles' practice squad. If the 2019 season taught Sudfeld one thing, it's the value of patience. He looked around the league and saw Tom Brady (42 years old), Drew Brees (41 years old), and Philip Rivers (38 years old) join new teams or sign lucrative deals this offseason.
"Everyone's journey is different, but I'm just ready to go when my time comes," Sudfeld said. "I have so much confidence. I feel like my physical and mental traits are together. I'm just ready, foaming at the mouth ready, to get in and play."
Hopefully, outside of the preseason, it's when the Eagles are up by 20 points in the fourth quarter.