Eagles

Eagles backup quarterback spot appears to be Nate Sudfeld's to lose

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Eagles backup quarterback spot appears to be Nate Sudfeld's to lose

The Eagles aren’t saying it. Nate Sudfeld isn’t saying it. But Sudfeld is the Eagles’ backup quarterback.

Who an organization brings in this time of year to compete with its backup typically speaks volumes about how they feel about said backup. When executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman proclaimed in February the Eagles were looking at veteran signal callers, people thought Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Fitzpatrick, maybe Tyrod Taylor.

The Eagles used a fifth-round draft pick on Clayton Thorson and signed free agent Cody Kessler a couple weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Sudfeld received a second-round tender from the club as a restricted free agent this offseason — the second-largest qualifying offer — signing for over $3 million in April.

“It was really exciting,” Sudfeld said after Tuesday’s practice. “That really kind of gave me a vote of confidence and just was really exciting because again I wanted to be here and I have another year to keep getting better and developing here.”

Sudfeld’s contract isn’t guaranteed or anything, so in theory, Kessler — a former third-round pick with 12 not-awful starts under his belt — could steal the job. Yet, even listening to the language Eagles coach Doug Pederson used, it’s clear what the expectation is.

“Nate has an opportunity to really compete and solidify the No. 2 spot,” Pederson said on Tuesday. “He gets an opportunity and it’s a great opportunity for him to do that.

“Depth brings a lot of competition. At that spot, there is no exemption. Looking forward to that.”

Some might think it a gamble for the Eagles to hitch their wagon to a backup who’s thrown just 25 passes in NFL regular season games. Then again, the club’s trust in Sudfeld has never waned, going back to his rookie year in 2017 when he served as Nick Foles’ backup throughout the playoffs and Super Bowl.

Clearly, the Eagles see something in the 25-year-old the rest of us simply haven’t yet had the chance to experience. They stashed him on the 53-man roster for the better part of two seasons. They’ve watched him grow as an athlete and quarterback.

“I feel like I’ve improved in a lot of ways since Washington,” Sudfeld said, referring to where he got his start as a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016. “I think physically I’ve developed a lot. I think I was kind of a late bloomer, so I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger in the weight room, faster on the field. I just feel like physical development’s been huge. And then just being in the NFL a couple years, some great systems and great coaches, just understanding ball a lot more and seeing situations and being able to apply it.

“I think arm strength has improved, velocity, weight room just in general, core, everything. I just feel a lot better.”

That doesn’t mean the Eagles will simply give Sudfeld his spot. Kessler is an intriguing prospect — he was reasonably accurate and took care of the football (64.2 completion percentage and 5 interceptions in 17 career games) as a member of bad Browns and Jaguars squads. Thorson, too, while likely more of a project, could take a surprise leap at the next level.

Whether because he’s confident in his ability or simply understands the situation, Sudfeld doesn’t seem to be sweating the competition.

“Nothing’s ever going to be handed to you, and you don’t want it that way,” Sudfeld said. “There’s no sense of entitlement. Everything’s earned. I’m just trying to improve myself as much as possible, try to be the best version of myself, work on my craft. I know if I can keep improving and become a better player, it’ll all take care of itself.”

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Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

Ever wonder how many Philly natives played for the Eagles?

When the Eagles signed Will Parks, who grew up at 2nd and Allegheny and attended since-shuttered Germantown High School, it got me wondering how many Philadelphia natives have played for the Eagles.

The answer is not many. Especially recently.

Going back to 1940, we found 14 Philly natives who played in at least one regular-season game for the Eagles.

We’re not including players from the suburbs [Vince Papale, Josh Adams, Matt Bahr] or Philly natives the Eagles drafted who never got into a game [Raheem Brock, Steve Ebbeke].

Anybody missing?

SHAREEF MILLER [2019]: You don’t have to go very far back to find the last Philly native to play for the Eagles. Miller, their 4th-round pick last year, graduated from George Washington High up in Somerton, and he did play for the Eagles last year – two special teams snaps against the Bills.

BRUCE PERRY [2005-06]: Perry, also a George Washington graduate, was the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2004. He played five games with the Eagles and had 16 career carries. On the last day of the 2005 season, he ran 15 times for 70 yards against the Redskins, a 4.7 average. He never had another NFL carry.

UHURU HAMITER [2001-02]: Hamiter was a defensive end who played at Mastbaum High in Kensington, leading the Panthers to the 1996 Public League championship. After playing at Delaware State, he went undrafted in 1998, but he signed with the London Monarchs of the World League and had seven sacks. The Eagles brought him into training camp that summer, and although he didn’t make the roster, he did resurface in 1999 with the Saints and played five games. He returned to Philly and played in eight games.

CHUCK WEBER [1959-61]: Weber went to Abington High, but he grew up in Philly, so we’ll keep him in the Philly section. Weber was actually the Eagles’ middle linebacker in 1960, when Chuck Bednarik played outside. Weber had six INTs in 1960, most by an Eagles linebacker until William Thomas had seven in 1995. In a 1960 game against the Cowboys at the Cotton Bowl he became the first linebacker in NFL history with three INTs in a game. He remains one of only six Eagles with three interceptions in a game and the only linebacker. Kurt Coleman is the last to do it.

EDDIE BELL [1955-58]: Bell went to West Philadelphia High and played at Penn. The Eagles drafted him in the 5th-round in 1953, and Bell, one of the first African-Americans to play in the NFL, had nine INTs in four seasons with the Eagles before spending time in the CFL and then the AFL with the New York Titans, who eventually became the Jets.

JOHN MICHELS [1953]: Not to be confused with the John Michels who was once traded for Jon Harris, this John Michels was a guard who went to West Catholic and then played at Tennessee. He was a 25th-round draft pick in 1953 and played 11 games for the Eagles.

JESS RICHARDSON [1953-61]: Richardson was from East Falls and went to Roxborough High. He was the Eagles’ 8th-round pick in 1953 as a defensive tackle out of Alabama. Ray Didinger tells me Richardson grew up blocks away from the Kelly family and was friends with Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco. He played nine of his 12 NFL seasons with the Eagles, made a Pro Bowl in 1959 and started on the 1960 NFL Championship team.

WALT STICKEL [1950-51]: Stickel went to Northeast High and played at both Tulsa and Penn before the Bears drafted him in the 21st round in 1945. He finished his career with the Eagles, playing in 11 games.

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Nate Sudfeld confident in his ability to be Eagles’ backup QB

Nate Sudfeld confident in his ability to be Eagles’ backup QB

Had Nate Sudfeld not fractured his non-throwing wrist last summer, there’s a very good chance it would have been him attempting to lead the Eagles to an improbable playoff win against the Seahawks instead of 40-year-old Josh McCown after Carson Wentz suffered a concussion. 

But Sudfeld’s injury in August forced the Eagles to go out and lure McCown out of retirement. And once they did, even when Sudfeld was healthy, McCown wasn’t going to be the Eagles’ third-string quarterback. 

It was literally a bad break for Sudfeld. 

The 26-year-old quarterback didn’t technically hit free agency this year but he got close. Sudfeld at least got to test the waters of free agency during the legal tampering period before agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract the day before the start of the new league year. 

When asked if the Eagles offered him any assurances about being the No. 2 quarterback, Sudfeld did not answer directly. But it seems like there’s a really good chance he’ll finally be Wentz’s No. 2 in 2020. 

“I don’t want to get into specifics but I’m very excited about the opportunity to come back and feel really good about coming back to Philadelphia,” Sudfeld said on a conference call this week. “Really excited to get back to work.” 

Will the Eagles bring in another veteran quarterback or draft a rookie to compete with him? It’s unclear. 

I think the NFL is obviously a meritocracy,” Sudfeld said. “As people have said before, it’s really ‘What have you done for me lately?’ What are you doing at each step? You have to keep proving yourself and you have to keep proving. 

“I definitely have a ton of confidence if I’m ever in a situation where I’m head-on-head competing with somebody. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I haven’t ever really had that opportunity so I’m looking forward to that if that comes.

The debate about whether or not Wentz is an injury-prone player has become trite at this point and it’s really not worth getting caught up in. But the fact remains that the final snaps in each of the Eagles’ last three seasons have been taken by his backup. 

Because of that, maybe it would have made sense for the Eagles to go out and grab a backup quarterback with some significant experience, sort of like what they did when they were forced to last year, signing McCown. 

Sudfeld might be great. But we just don’t know. 

Even he admits that. 

“The crazy thing about quarterback, especially, is you never really know about a guy until they’re thrown in there,” Sudfeld said. “The only way to get experience is to get experience.”

The Redskins drafted Sudfeld in the sixth-round out of Indiana back in 2016, but he left after one year to join Doug Pederson and the Eagles. At every turn, the Eagles have shown faith in him. They brought him in from Washington, they promoted him to the active roster that season to avoid losing him, they left him as the backup to Nick Foles in 2017 and 2018 after Wentz went down. And now they’ve brought him back as a free agent. 

And there’s a lot to like about Sudfeld. He’s 6-6 with a big arm and the ability to move in and out of the pocket. He’s shown his skills in practices and in the preseason. 

But in four NFL seasons, he’s thrown a total of 25 passes in the regular season. 

General manager Howie Roseman said that with the unique challenges of this offseason — we still don’t know if there will be spring practices — it was important to bring back a guy who knows the offense. Roseman said they really like him as a player too. 

With the NFL’s open negotiation period last week, Sudfeld got a chance to gauge interest from other teams and learn what they value in his game. It was a good experience, he said. But, ultimately, he felt like there was more left to do in Philly, at least for 2020. 

“Obviously, I want to be a starter someday,” Sudfeld said. “I want to play in this league. But I understand that it’s a process to get there and you have to get on the field.”

In a few months, he might be one injury away. 

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