The reality, Nate Sudfeld isn’t afraid to remind anyone who asks, is that he was, in fact, “one play away” from taking over the reins for the Eagles’ offense in Super Bowl LII playing behind Nick Foles. Nobody remembers that, or wants to remember it. But it’s true. It’s a fact.
One play away.
So, the narrative of 2019 that Sudfeld is “one play away” from being the Eagles’ starting quarterback isn’t really all that new. You understand, then, why Sudfeld isn’t flinching. Yes, he’s entering the season in new territory as the presumptive No. 2 quarterback behind Carson Wentz, even if the Eagles continue to talk about the open competition at the position. No matter how it shakes out, the truth is this: Sudfeld is on a mission to improve his game, one day at a time.
“That’s really the goal,” Sudfeld said on the eve of the preseason opener as the Eagles take on Tennessee on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., NBC10, pre-game coverage on PhiladelphiaEagles.com, the team’s official app, and all social channels starting at 7 p.m. with The Kickoff Show). “I feel like I’m in a good place. I like how things are going and how much I’m improving my game. It’s going to be fun to go out there and see another defense. We’ve been going against our own defense for a long time. It’s going to be refreshing to see someone else.”
Sudfeld is going to play a lot in this preseason, starting with tonight. While head coach Doug Pederson hasn’t yet made his intentions public as far as a playing rotation, it’s safe to say that Sudfeld will get the majority of the reps, regardless of whether Wentz plays. The Eagles want to put Sudfeld into as many game experiences as possible, given that he’s had such a limited palette of experiences in his regular-season moments. Sudfeld has played in all of three regular-season games in three seasons and has thrown a total of 25 passes, completing 20 with one touchdown. Twenty-three of those passes happened in the 2017 finale against Dallas after the Eagles clinched the top seed in the playoffs, so it’s fair to say that Sudfeld welcomes every chance he gets to play ball.
And in this preseason, he’s going to get a lot of chances.
“Every time I’m out there it’s a great experience,” Sudfeld said. “The only way you’re going to get better is to see live action and make decisions in the heat of the battle. Whether it’s the preseason or the regular season, it’s a fast tempo and you are going to see defenses that you have to make adjustments to, so this is a time to improve my game. I’m not wearing a red jersey like I do in practice. They’re going to come after me.”
Sudfeld spent his offseason working on getting the football out of his hands faster, improving his decision-making, and working on his overall mechanics. He’s got the system down pat and he’s built chemistry with the receiving corps, so Sudfeld is well prepared to have success in the preseason, no matter the supporting cast. Of course, that’s going to be part of the equation, because Sudfeld won’t have the luxury of playing behind the standout starting offensive line or with a wide receiver corps deemed best in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Timing is always an issue in the preseason. But … it’s still football. It’s still a chance to sharpen the instincts and speed up the tempo and go out and have fun.
“I love the preseason. This is the time for all of us to get the rust off and get ready for the regular season,” Sudfeld said. “I treat it very seriously. We all do. Our job is to go out and execute the offense and put points on the board.”
Sudfeld, Cody Kessler, and fifth-round draft pick Clayton Thorson will likely share the majority of the reps against Tennessee, even if Wentz sees a series or two of action. Head coach Doug Pederson wants to be aggressive in this preseason and put his quarterbacks in situations where they’re going to have to make good decisions in pressure moments. Sudfeld is going to challenge the Titans’ defense and try to get the ball down the field. You can only take what the defense gives you, so Sudfeld has to show patience and guile and deliver the football accurately and on time.
Test 1 of the preseason, the first of four, comes just in time to end the monotony of Training Camp.
“Hey, it’s a football game and I’m preparing just like it’s the regular season,” Sudfeld said. “Obviously, we don’t gameplan like we would in the regular season, but my mindset is to go out there and take advantage of the opportunity and play my game. I’m going to feel the adrenaline. I’m going to be pumped up. It’s something I love to do and it’s my job. I can’t wait to get it going.”