- The young Eagles QB is expected to get a lot of practice reps and practice time in Training Camp and the preseason. His development means a lot to the chain of quarterbacks on the roster.
It is a bit of a misnomer to think that, as popular chatter goes, this summer is all about The Quarterback for the Eagles. The reference, of course, is that all eyes will be on Carson Wentz and his recovery from knee surgery and his race against time as he aims for starting the season on September 6 when the Atlanta Falcons come to town to open the NFL schedule.
Certainly, Wentz is a focal point and his recovery is an A-list story for the Eagles and for the NFL, for that matter. It’s likely to be an almost-daily question from the assembled media, and there will be a huge contingent, at the NovaCare Complex.
But beyond that, the quarterback position in its entirety is worth intense scrutiny. The Eagles have an enviable situation, one that launches into ridiculously great looking to the foreseeable future if everything plays out as planned.
Wentz is The Franchise, as we know. Nick Foles, who had his contract extended through 2019, is coming off a Most Valuable Player run in the Super Bowl and a brilliant postseason in general, and he’s as good a No. 2 quarterback as you will ever find in the history of this league. And then there is Nate Sudfeld, a burgeoning talent at No. 3 who is riding a wave of confidence built from a season in the Eagles' system, a taste of regular-season NFL play, and a strong spring during which he had the offensive scheme engrained in his brain and real on-field reps to back up his classroom excellence.
“The reps that I’ve had in the spring,” Sudfeld said as the team’s mandatory minicamp entered its final day in June, “have been extremely valuable for me. The more time I can get on the field, the better it’s going to be for me, getting into a rhythm, getting into a flow. I’m excited with where I am and I’m looking forward to doing more in the summer.”
Oh, Sudfeld is going to do more in the summer. In fact, it’s fair to say that he’s a main priority for the Eagles, who really want to find out what they have in the strapping 6-6, 227-pounder who entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick by Washington in 2016. Sudfeld spent all of 2016 on Washington’s 53-man roster, inactive every week, but then was released as the team reached its roster limit prior to the 2017 season.
The Eagles adroitly snapped up Sudfeld and added him to their practice squad, where he digested the X’s and O’s for eight weeks. The Eagles liked what they saw from Sudfeld in that time and added him to the active roster in November.
“There was so much to learn and take in,” Sudfeld said. “I can’t say that I’ve mastered everything, but compared to where I was last year, it’s night and day. The language is different and that’s really the biggest thing. Knowing how the Eagles do things took some time. But last year, I really appreciate the coaches working with me and taking the time to develop my mechanics and pushing me to become a better player.
“There is always room to grow. I think I’ve come a long way. I know I have a lot more to do.”
Sudfeld played three quarters of the final regular-season game last season against Dallas, completing 19 of 23 passes for 123 yards. He showed some wheels for such a big man with a 22-yard scramble. It was an encouraging performance, enough to convince the Eagles that maybe, just maybe, Sudfeld’s growth ceiling would reach the level of a starting quarterback in this league.
He’s a prospect, for sure. And the Eagles want to find out more with extended practice reps in Training Camp and a lot of time running the offense in the preseason games.
“Nate works hard, he prepares, and he’s got a lot of skill,” quarterbacks coach Press Taylor said of Sudfeld. “I’m impressed with how far he has come in a short period of time. He hasn’t been here even a year yet, and that’s important to keep in perspective. We want to continue to get him reps and develop him, improve his game in every area. This is a big summer for Nate. We’re all excited about it.”
If Sudfeld keeps trending in the right direction, well, then this quarterback picture looks set for many years to come. They can confidently move forward with Wentz, one of the best players in the league. Foles is here through ’19 if both sides want that. Sudfeld, then, projects as a No. 2 whom the Eagles think can win if he’s needed to start or come on in relief. Heck, the team was impressed with Joe Callahan in the spring, so maybe he hangs around for some continued development.
No question, the quarterback is in the eye of the (camera) lens this summer. But it’s not just Wentz. Nor is it necessarily Foles, the Super Bowl hero. Include Sudfeld in the conversation, and prepare for a heavy dose of the third-year player, because his development is critical in the long-term plans the team has at the game’s most important position.