One of the important missions for the Eagles in Training Camp and preseason is to learn more about their quarterback depth. Certainly, yes, no doubt, getting Carson Wentz healthy remains a top objective. And making sure Nick Foles is up to speed is extremely vital to the success of the Eagles in 2018.
But the Eagles know that in Wentz they have an annual Most Valuable Player candidate and in Foles they have the Super Bowl MVP. So, those two have pedigrees.
That is not the case with Nate Sudfeld, a third-year man whom the Eagles astutely scooped up last year as the Washington Redskins cut him to reach the 53-man roster limit prior to the 2017 regular season. The Eagles brought Sudfeld on board to their practice squad and then in November promoted him to the active roster.
"It's been quite a road," Sudfeld says now. "You learn about the business in a hurry in the NFL."
The business of Sudfeld is this: The Eagles want to know exactly what they have in this guy. Can he potentially be a starter in the league? Can he be a high-level backup? Just what is Sudfeld's ceiling?
We're in the process of learning all of that.
Sudfeld has taken a ton of reps in the spring and through the halfway point of Training Camp, and he's on course to throw upwards of 100 passes in the four preseason games to come. If there was a Preseason Fantasy Football League (is there?) Sudfeld might be worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. That's how much work he's going to get. And that suits Sudfeld just fine.
With Wentz certainly not going to play and with Nick Foles sidelined by an undisclosed injury the last few days that is not expected to be anything lingering, Sudfeld is in line to start Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I'm really excited about have it kind of matter and play under the lights a little bit," Sudfeld said. "I'm just excited to go out with my teammates and keep doing what we've been doing, try to progress every day and get better. I'm looking forward to competing.
"I'm sure I'll get some reps (Thursday). I'm not sure how they're going to spread them out, but I'll be ready to go and I'm really excited about it."
Sudfeld is a big guy (6-6, 227 pounds) with a good arm and nimble feet. He played in the regular-season finale last year, against Dallas, and completed 19 of 23 passes, adding in a 22-yard scramble, in his NFL debut. Sudfeld's progress throughout the season was enough for the Eagles to suggest, at various times in this offseason, that Sudfeld could maybe, possibly someday, become a starting player in this league.
For a sixth-round pick who was ditched basically after a season and a summer by the team that drafted him, that's high praise.
But that's the kind of progress Sudfeld has shown.
"I feel like physically I've improved a lot. I've gotten a lot stronger in our strength and conditioning program," Sudfeld said. "I feel like I've gotten a lot faster. I feel like I've got better quarterback mechanics going from last year into this year with Coach Flip (former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, now the offensive coordinator in Minnesota) and then Press (Taylor, quarterbacks coach) have done a great job with my mechanics. I'm still a work in progress but just trying to get my feet quicker and be more explosive.
"I think a year in, having confidence, having played last year in the regular season, and then getting a lot of reps in this offseason, being able to spit out the verbiage in the huddle, things like that. Actually getting reps is the best thing to get. I think I've improved, but I'm still reaching."
Sudfeld and Joe Callahan, a South Jersey native and alumnus of Wesley College in Delaware who played last year in Green Bay, may very well be the primary preseason quarterbacks for the Eagles, so being on the same page with their teammates on offense will be critical.
The preseason is about player evaluation and the Eagles are in a perfect position to do just that with Sudfeld. We've learned the value of the backup quarterbacks over the years, right? In 1991, the Eagles couldn't replace Randall Cunningham when he went down. In 2002, A.J. Feeley stepped in for Donovan McNabb and Koy Detmer, and helped the Eagles claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Michael Vick became a Pro Bowl player when he stepped in for Kevin Kolb in Week 1 of 2010.
And so on and so on and so on, right up until Foles' brilliant performance in the postseason with Wentz sidelined last season.
You can never have too many capable quarterbacks on the roster. The Eagles think they have three, at least. They're going to know a whole lot more about Sudfeld, and about Callahan, starting Thursday night when the preseason kicks off against Pittsburgh (7 p.m. on NBC10 and SportsRadio 94WIP).
"I'm excited. Every rep is great for me," Sudfeld said. "I'm going to go out there and have fun and play football."