The Eagles won't have a quarterback controversy on their hands, but Nate Sudfeld is ready if called upon.
Sudfeld, making his NFL regular-season debut Sunday, saw the bulk of the action under center in the Eagles' 6-0 Week 17 loss to the Cowboys (see breakdown). The second-year passer came on in relief of Nick Foles in the second quarter, completing 19 of 23 attempts for 134 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was also sacked three times.
Playing with his fellow backups for all but the first series, Sudfeld held his own and avoided turnovers. He showed adequate arm strength, good pocket awareness and mobility, accounting for the Eagles' longest gain of the day with a 22-yard run.
It was a performance Sudfeld can build on. Yet afterward, the 24-year-old was far from satisfied.
"Pretty solid for the most part in terms of efficiency and everything, but I felt like there were some plays that we weren't able to finish," Sudfeld said. "I took two sacks that I shouldn't have. And overall, you want to actually get points and finish drives, but we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.
“I still feel like it was all there, we just didn't play to our best.”
A sixth-round draft pick by the Redskins in 2016, Sudfeld was signed to the Eagles' practice squad in September, then added to the 53-man roster in November. He became the backup to Foles after the season-ending injury to Carson Wentz, amid calls for the team to sign an experienced signal caller.
Despite his rapid ascension up the depth chart, nobody had any idea what a Sudfeld-led offense might look like until Sunday.
"Reps always help," Sudfeld said. "I felt confident before today that I could go in and do my part and help this team win, but stacking some reps together is awesome.
“I'm more confident than ever in my ability, and I know that I could help this team out if they need me.”
Sudfeld completed 82.6 percent of his passes, though he stuck with short-to-intermediate routes, finishing with a modest 5.8 yards per attempt. The thought process of the approach was part making smart decisions, and part taking what the defense would give him.
"That's a little bit of how Dallas is," Sudfeld said. "They're a bend-but-don't-break defense. They're going to try to force you to just check it down all game, and they stayed true to that. There were a few times I'm sure I could've maybe given it a shot downfield, but I was just trying to play efficient today.
“You always wish there could be more, but I feel like one more drive, and those shots were coming.”
Though much was made about this being Sudfeld's first regular-season action, the Indiana product claimed it wasn't vastly different from his six preseason contests with the Redskins.
"Everybody makes such a huge deal out of regular season, and guys are so much better, and they are," Sudfeld said. "Everybody is.
“But playing preseason is really fast paced also, and I've said it before, that's guys fighting for their livelihood. They're trying to be a football player for their life, for their career, so I think there are a lot of similarities. It's more similar than it is different.”
Of course, the pace may have felt similar to an exhibition game because it was that in many respects. The Eagles had already clinched the top playoff seed in the NFC, and by halftime, they were resting as many starters as possible. And while the Cowboys played many of their starters until the end, they were eliminated from postseason contention last week, lacking urgency.
Still, the opportunity to go against a defense made of actual NFL players rather than the back end of a 90-man roster was an invaluable experience for Sudfeld.
"Before this game, I felt if the team ever required me to play and help this team," Sudfeld said, "I felt I was able to do it, but it's always good to get reps and do it in live action."
In many respects, Sudfeld outplayed Foles on Sunday. Sudfeld was far more accurate and showed an ability to make plays with his feet that Foles doesn't have, no doubt prompting some observers to believe the backup will be a better option when the playoffs get underway in January.
That's probably a touch unfair, but all of a sudden, the Eagles don't look so crazy for stashing Sudfeld all season and opting to keep him as the backup instead of signing a free agent off the street. He looked like a legitimate prospect, perhaps even somebody with a future in the league.
"For the most part, the whole game I felt in pretty good rhythm," Sudfeld said. "Obviously, you want to put points on the board and stuff, but I never really felt out of rhythm by any means.