Eagles more comfortable playing in Seattle this time around

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Eagles more comfortable playing in Seattle this time around

Brandon Brooks thought of a good way to describe what it's like to play in a loud atmosphere and still hear the quarterback. 

Ever been in a large crowd, but can still hear your mom? 

"You know what it is," Brooks said. "You can hear her voice. It's the same way with Carson. So as loud as it is, you're trained to listen to him. Unless it's like an airhorn in your ear, you're gonna hear his voice out of everything or at least hear bits and pieces of it. It's loud, don't get me wrong. But when you're playing you can tune that out a little bit and at least hear Carson and communicate back and forth." 

The Eagles are about to go into a pretty big crowd on Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. While some of the prestige of CenturyLink Field has been lost in recent weeks, it's still a really tough place to play. 

The Eagles found that out last season, when they lost there, 26-15, to kick off a five-game losing skid. 

But this Eagles team is obviously much better than the team that lost in Seattle a year ago. While the Seahawks don't seem like the same dominant team again this season, the Eagles are the best team in the NFC. And having played in Seattle last year ought to help. 

"It's a huge help," Wentz said. "We went into there last year, heard all about it, knew what to expect. It's definitely loud. It's quite the atmosphere. It's a fun place to play. I think most guys have been there now, so I think that will pay dividends in our week of prep, knowing how much we need to emphasize hand signals and communicating things non-verbally."

Frank Reich brought up an interesting point earlier this week. There's always a lot made about the crowd noise in Seattle, The 12th Man and all that. But "in another respect, loud is loud, and once you're using the silent count, you're using a silent count," Reich said. 

The Eagles have had plenty of practice with the silent count this season. While they won just one game on the road in 2016, they're already 4-1 on the road this year as they kick off a three-game road trip this weekend. They've played in Washington, Kansas City, L.A., Carolina and Dallas. 

They're at a place now where they're really comfortable with their silent count. Last season, Pederson said they can get so comfortable going silent that it actually becomes weird when they finally hear a live voice again. 

"We feel really good with it," Wentz said. "I personally always prefer to play at home and use the cadence, but you can always use the silent cadence as a weapon as well. We feel really confident with it. We've used it enough this year with that road stretch earlier in the year, where we feel good with it."

For the last two seasons, the trio of Brooks, Jason Kelce and Wentz have kept the silent count working. It's Brooks' job to tap Kelce on his left side to trigger the snap, though Eagles have plenty of silent procedure mechanisms to trigger the snap. The key is to switch them up. 

Going to the silent count can sometimes be more difficult on tackles, tight ends and receivers. They can't use listening as a crutch. Instead, they have to keep an eye on the ball. 

That can be a problem for players like Lane Johnson, who really relies on getting off the ball and getting into his stance quickly. While he's watching the ball, he has to also be aware of what the defender in front of him is doing. He can't let the defensive end slide away from him while he's busy paying attention to the football. 

"The thing is, you kind of have to see where the end is and sometimes they'll squeeze down, a blitz might be coming," Johnson said. "A lot of things are going on. That's the toughest thing."

When the Eagles are preparing for a road game like this, they begin using that silent count in practice early. It's something Brooks said he can't really work on individually; it is an emphasis during team periods of practice. The Eagles will likely practice inside on Friday to get some exposure to crowd noise. 

While CenturyLink Field has earned its reputation as a loud and tough place to play, the Seahawks have looked much more vulnerable at home lately. After winning their first four games at home this season, they have lost the last two in their own nest — to Washington on Nov. 5 and Atlanta on Nov. 20. 

If the Eagles beat them there, it will be the first time the Seahawks have lost three in a row at home since the 2008 season. 

Are they worried about teams no longer having that fear of playing there?  

"No, I don't care about that," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on a conference call earlier this week. "I don't think anybody is fearing anything. We're just playing football. We play at a good place and we gotta play well when we're here. If we do the right stuff and play well, then the results are what they are. I don't think it has anything to do with fear. And I don't care about that at all." 

Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

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Nate Sudfeld has reasons to feel 'very confident' as Eagles' new backup QB

Nate Sudfeld stood by his locker on Wednesday afternoon, early in his first week as the Eagles' backup quarterback, and claimed his game-day responsibilities won't change. He'll still be helping the starter to see coverages, go through plays and diagnose pressures. 

The only difference is he'll now wear a helmet and shoulder pads. 

Well, actually, there's one more difference. 

"I won't be dead tired when the game starts," Sudfeld said. 

During the first 14 weeks of the season, when Sudfeld was the Eagles' third-stringer, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo would put him through an intense 45-minute workout before each game. Sudfeld is grateful for those workouts, which helped him with throwing and footwork, but said DeFilippo "kills" him each week. 

Those workouts are over. Because come Sunday, thanks to Carson Wentz's torn left ACL, Sudfeld will be dressing for each game as the Eagles' backup quarterback behind Nick Foles. 

He's now just one play away from being the Eagles' starter. 

"I feel very confident," Sudfeld said. "I mean, I wasn't just sitting back, watching practice all year, just expecting to never play football. I was definitely getting ready in case something like this happened. It's my responsibility as a 3 to be ready to be a 2. One play away and then one more play away. So I definitely feel prepared being here however many weeks, 14 weeks, has really helped. But I've treated each week as if I was going to play. I feel very confident."

But the difference between Foles and Sudfeld is glaring. Foles has been a starting quarterback in the NFL before and even in Philadelphia (see story). He's been to a Pro Bowl. His experience has been lauded all week (see story).

Meanwhile, Sudfeld is 24. A sixth-round pick to Washington last season, he's never played in an NFL game. Heck, Sunday will be his first time dressing for an NFL game. He didn't even join the Eagles' active roster until early November, when the Birds signed him from the practice squad. And that was just to prevent the Colts from poaching him. 

Has the Eagles' faith in him as the backup validated his decision to stay? 

"I mean, I've always wanted to be here since I got here so I'm just very excited that they do think enough of me to give me the opportunity," Sudfeld said. "I'm looking forward to if my name does get called, being ready to go." 

Since joining the Eagles' active roster, he's been inactive every week. But the fact that they were willing to use a roster spot on him, knowing he would be inactive each week, speaks to the way the organization feels about him. 

Foles didn't hesitate during his press conference on Tuesday to include Sudfeld every time he mentioned the quarterback group. The two have grown extremely close during the last few months. 

"Nate's a tremendous player," Foles said. "I'm excited about his future. Really smart, works his butt off, he's got all the tools to be a great player in this league. He's been there. I'm always going to include Carson, me and Nate. That's just sort of how it's been every single day going to work. We're going to lean on that. I'm going to lean on Nate through this process and we have the kind of quarterback room where you can do that, so it's sort of awesome. He's a tremendous player and I'm excited about his future in this league."

While not much will change for Sudfeld on game day — unless of course something happens to Foles — his workload during the week is very different. With Foles now taking all of the first-team reps at practice, Sudfeld gets all the scout team reps. 

While he got a few scout team reps over the course of the last few months, most of his reps with the Eagles have been mental. Sudfeld has been in the building with Wentz and Foles every day to watch film at 6 a.m., the trio would prep for each team and go through everything together, but when they got onto the practice field, the top two guys got to play and Sudfeld became a spectator. 

Fans probably don't know much about Sudfeld. Until this week, there's a good chance most Eagles fans had never even heard of him. Well, Sudfeld was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana last year. He spent the entire 2016 season with Washington, but was cut on Sept. 2. The Eagles signed him to their practice squad the next day. 

What kind of quarterback is he? 

"It's hard to assess yourself," Sudfeld answered. "I'm very confident in my game and I think I can make all the throws. I think I can move if I have to. I think I know the game pretty well. I'm continuing to improve. I'm a work in progress, but excited what I know I can do."

Perhaps the thing Eagles fans might know best about Sudfeld is that he's tall, white and lanky, and folks would probably say he looked like Wentz if he didn't look exactly like Foles. He and Foles look so much alike that their teammates razz them for it and fans confuse the two (see story).

Just last week in Los Angeles, fans got the two confused. Fans thought Sudfeld was Foles, even though the Real Nick Foles was walking in uniform right in front of him. 

When it was pointed out to Sudfeld that no matter how well Foles plays, he'll probably feel it too. 

"True," Sudfeld said. "Hopefully he keeps doing what I know he can do so people love me walking down the street."  

Eagles Film Review: Going back to same play with Nick Foles


Eagles Film Review: Going back to same play with Nick Foles

Arguably the best and worst play in the Eagles' 43-35 win Sunday over the Rams came on the same call from Doug Pederson. 

The interception in the first quarter and the key 3rd-and-8 conversion late in the fourth were nearly identical. Carson Wentz was the quarterback for the first one, Nick Foles ran the second. 

Give credit to Pederson. The play clearly didn't work the first time, but he went back to it at a pivotal moment in the game. That's trusting the play and trusting the backup quarterback. 

Let's first take a look at that early interception: 


It's 3rd-and-5 from the Eagles' 30-yard line. Wentz is in shotgun with LeGarrette Blount flanking him. One tight end on the same side. Alshon Jeffery at the top of the screen, Torrey Smith at the bottom. Nelson Agholor (circled) is being given a cushion by Rams cornerback Nickell Roby-Coleman. The aptly named cornerback is the Rams' slot corner in their nickel package. 

The running back and tight end stay in to block, which creates a lot of room in the middle of the field for Agholor vs. Roby-Coleman. Wentz is locked in. The Eagles need to get to the 35-yard line for a first down, so Agholor reaches the top of his route at the 39, before cutting back. 

You can see there's not much of a window here, but this is a back shoulder throw that has to be perfect. 

It's a tight window, and although Wentz hits Agholor in the hands, Roby-Coleman is able to get a paw in there to deflect it to Kayvon Webster, who broke toward the play. Webster picked off the ball on the deflection and the Rams took over in Eagles' territory and scored a few plays later. 

So the play didn't work the first time. Had the throw been absolutely perfect and if Agholor could have made a great catch, it would have. But this is a play that has to be perfect to work. 

The next time, it was. 

This probably looks pretty familiar. It's 3rd-and-8 from the Eagles' 23-yard line. With 1:52 left in a two-point game, they know if they pick up this first down, they can pretty much run down the clock and escape Los Angeles with a win. This is huge. 

Same play. This time, Foles is in shotgun with Blount next to him. The tight end on the same side; both will block again. Jeffery and Smith are the wideouts. But we'll focus on Agholor (circled). He's against Roby-Coleman again and has that cushion. 

Foles is locked on Agholor, just like Wentz was in the first quarter, but there's just not much separation. Really, there's no separation. Roby-Coleman plays this really well. 

Foles needs his pass to be absolutely perfect. He needs to put it in a spot where only Agholor can catch it. 

How's this for perfect? 

On this particular play, Foles actually threw a better pass than Wentz did in the first quarter. Now, Foles obviously isn't going to be Wentz, but this pass should at least give fans some confidence. 

And confidence isn't lacking. At an absolutely pivotal moment of the game, Pederson went back to a play that produced an interception the first time. And he went back to it with his backup quarterback who hasn't really played much all season. It was gutsy, it worked out and it shows the head coach's confidence in his new QB.

On Wednesday, Pederson pointed out Foles and Agholor were able to complete this pass after not working together all week or all season. All those reps have been going to Wentz. Now, Foles will get the chance to work with Agholor and the other starters the rest of the way.