Nate Sudfeld, from unknown to turning Eagles' heads

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Nate Sudfeld, from unknown to turning Eagles' heads

Last week was a bit different for Nate Sudfeld. As much as he tried to stay the same. 

While his normal film study and in-week habits stayed constant, there was one noticeable difference at practice. 

With Carson Wentz on injured reserve, Nick Foles is the new Eagles' starter and Sudfeld is the backup. So after spending most of his season without getting many reps in practice, Sudfeld took every scout team rep last week.

And apparently, he looked pretty good.

"To be honest, Nate was turning heads in practice," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Ask anybody what kind of practice Nate Sudfeld had last week. They'll tell you he was turning heads."

Head coach Doug Pederson agreed with Reich. He said it was probably Sudfeld's best week of practice, although that wasn't an extremely high bar to jump over; he got more work last week than ever before. 

But what seemed to impress Pederson about the way Sudfeld's week went was that he took the drill work he gets put through by QBs coach John DeFilippo and used it during practice. Pederson specifically mentioned Sudfeld's anticipation, ball location, accuracy, timing and movement in the pocket.

"So those things have begun to show up in practice last week," Pederson said. "It was a positive thing to see."

While Sudfeld might have turned a few heads, there were plenty of players in the locker room who have seen strong signs from him all season. Trey Burton has gotten scout team reps with Sudfeld before, so the tight end wasn't surprised when Sudfeld impressed everyone.

"He throws a really nice ball, extremely catchable, he's on time a lot," Burton said. "And he has poise back there."

As the scout team QB, Sudfeld's responsibility is to give the right looks to the starting defense. Those guys were impressed too, but Malcolm Jenkins didn't see anything different either.

"He's been getting reps all year," Jenkins said. "He's been giving us good looks all year, so nothing out of the norm. I know a lot of people are looking to see if he responded in any way, but for me, it would be hard for me to say anything has been different than since he's been here."

While some fans have been clamoring for the Eagles to go out and pick up a more experienced backup, it isn't going to happen. Earlier this week, Pederson said the biggest reason for not making a move is "time invested." Basically, it would take so much to get a new guy caught up in the offense and they've already been teaching Sudfeld since he arrived before the season opener (see story).

Because Sudfeld joined the Eagles off waivers after final cuts, he didn't even get to play a preseason game with them. He's an unknown to fans and even to some people in the organization. Last week offered him the first chance to get into a rhythm while taking every scout team rep.

As far as turning heads, does he sense that too?

"I feel very confident in what I can do," he said. "I feel like everybody around me has been great since I got here. As far as just getting more reps and letting them see what I can do, maybe a little bit. It kind of felt like what I can do. I just want to keep doing it one day at a time, one rep at a time."

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'best ever'

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Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'best ever'

As Michael Bennett watched the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, he couldn’t help but think about how he would fit with the Birds’ defensive line.

And how he could make an already impressive unit even better.

“Then a month later, it happens,” Bennett said at his introductory press conference in Philly on Monday afternoon. “Things always happen for a reason. This is just another great opportunity.”

Bennett is 32 now, but is coming off his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He clearly thinks he has plenty left in the tank and the Eagles obviously agree. They traded with the Seahawks to get him and then released a more expensive Vinny Curry.

The Birds then brought in Haloti Ngata and let Beau Allen walk in free agency. So the Eagles’ defensive line now includes Bennett, Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The group includes five former first-round picks and has a combined 11 Pro Bowls between them.

On Monday afternoon, Bennett put the quarterbacks of the NFC East on notice (see story) and then didn’t mince words about how great this defensive line can be in 2018.

“I think it can be one of the greatest,” he said. “I think we can have one of the greatest defensive lines to ever play the game if we approach the game every single way. Just go out there and just keep doing what they’re doing and just finding a way to add and just keep showing how many great players.

“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation. It’s kind of like Golden State. You want to be able to have those guys who can come in and shoot and shoot and score every time.”

This isn’t the first time an Eagles defensive lineman has compared the unit to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it was Curry who said it last October after the Eagles tortured San Francisco's C.J. Beathard for an afternoon at the Linc (see story). Curry’s out and Bennett is in, but the rotation is still going strong.

Bennett played 934 defensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2017. That was the third-most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Graham led the Eagles’ defensive linemen in snaps with 666 in the regular season; that ranked 43rd in the NFL among defensive linemen.

So maybe that means that the disruptive numbers Bennett put up in Seattle were because he played so much. Or, on the flip side, staying fresh might actually help increase his productivity and lead to more longevity. The Eagles are hoping for the latter.

“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man,” Bennett said. “But, like I said, I came here to be an All-Star, just like I’ve been, to continuously play at a Pro Bowl level and I don’t think that’s no different. Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.

“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February. To be able to keep guys fresh and to have those opportunities where you have guys to be able to keep rushing the quarterback as savage as we can. You gotta go out there and play savage every single play and I think less snaps can give me the opportunity to do that.”

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

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Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

It wasn't quite a WWE throwdown message, but Michael Bennett definitely put NFC East quarterbacks on notice during his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon.

He's coming for them.

And so are the rest of his defensive line teammates.

"I know Eli Manning is probably watching this and thinking, like, yes I'm coming," said Bennett, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Seahawks. "I know Dak (Prescott) is watching this like, 'Yeah, he's coming.' Yeah, I am.

"And Alex Smith, he knows he can't run from me. I told him at the Pro Bowl. So it's definitely going to be a great season and it's going to be fun to chase quarterbacks. I just know third down it's just going to be ... and second down and first down, it's just going to be fun."

When Bennett, 32, named all three of the starting quarterbacks from the NFC East, he was actually answering a question about comparing the defensive schemes from Seattle and Philadelphia. Bennett began by saying that he played with some great players in Seattle, before saying he doesn't think there's a tight end in the NFL that can block him.

From there, he started to name the QBs.

Manning in New York. Prescott in Dallas. And recently-acquired Smith in Washington. They'll all be seeing Bennett twice this season.

Bennett is basically replacing Vinny Curry on the Eagles' defensive line, and Haloti Ngata is basically replacing Beau Allen. While Curry and Allen are younger, many think Bennett and Ngata are improvements in the short-term, which means the strength of the Eagles' defense from 2017 is even stronger in 2018.

While Curry had just three sacks in 2017 and has gone over the four-sack mark just once in his six-year career, Bennett has had at least five sacks in all of those last six seasons. Bennett has 48 sacks since 2012 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons.

While there was a report that surfaced saying Seattle was trying to part ways with socially active players, Bennett said he didn't give it much credence. His relationship with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll goes beyond football and he knows Seattle was just trying to unload him to get something back in return; it's part of the business.

It seems likely that in Philly, Bennett will get a chance to play both inside and outside. His versatility was used in a similar fashion in Seattle, but he also played a ton of snaps, which he won't have to do in the Eagles' rotation. It should keep him fresh.

And it will probably keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.