Eagles

Eagles learning plenty about Nate Sudfeld in OTAs

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Eagles learning plenty about Nate Sudfeld in OTAs

One benefit of Carson Wentz not being a full participant in OTAs is the Eagles can take a long, hard look at Nate Sudfeld.

That won’t put a lot of minds at ease as far as Wentz’s recovery is concerned, but the extra work for Sudfeld in the meantime could prove valuable.

“I’m excited,” Sudfeld said following Tuesday’s practice. “Excited to get quite a bit of reps and continue to play in this offense and get live reps in it, because other than actually playing in the games, I didn’t get many reps in the offense last year.

“Actually going through reads and making the decisions, putting the ball where it needs to be, it’s a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”

It’s easy to forget just how little the Eagles know about their 24-year-old signal caller. A sixth-round draft pick out of Indiana, Sudfeld joined the team last September after spending his rookie season with Washington. He wasn’t around for OTAs or training camp, and once the NFL season starts, backup quarterbacks get next to no work at practice.

Outside of an extended relief appearance in a meaningless Week 17 tilt with the Dallas Cowboys — a glorified preseason game — Sudfeld had hardly taken a snap in the Eagles’ offense. 

That’s all going to change beginning with OTAs.

“What I got in season was invaluable, but this is great,” Sudfeld said. “In our offense, able to be coached without coaches working on game plans every week, it’s been really good.”

Sudfeld is still No. 2 on the depth chart behind Nick Foles while Wentz continues to rehab, but it’s a step up. There’s plenty of snaps to go around this time of year, plus he’s practicing with better talent on the second-team offense.

The Eagles may choose to manage Foles’ workload as well, which would mean even more work for Sudfeld this spring.

“I just show up and I do what they tell me to do,” Sudfeld said. “I don’t try to peek out how many reps I’m getting for the day. I know I need to come ready to play.

“If you’re trying to read scripts, that’s not playing the game, because when you’re playing the game, you do what coach calls in the headset. I’m just coming to work excited to practice every day and work on my craft.”

This is an important opportunity for Sudfeld. The Eagles really like this kid.

When the Colts tried to pluck Sudfeld from the Eagles’ practice squad last November, the team added him to the 53-man roster, opting to carry three quarterbacks for a time. Even after the injury to Wentz, with the playoffs on the horizon, he was kept in place as Foles’ backup despite the lack of any NFL experience whatsoever.

Sudfeld provided a glimpse into what the Eagles might’ve seen in Week 17, completing 19 of 23 passes in the first game of his pro career. His performance against Dallas was enough to create some intrigue.

“If I just keep stacking good practices together, I think good things will happen,” Sudfeld said.

“My goal is to become the best player I can be, to be too good to not have a c­hance somewhere down the road. Whether it’s sooner or later, obviously I’m a competitor and I want to play.”

Sudfeld is getting a chance of sorts now. Should he progress, these workouts will put him one step closer toward accomplishing his goal.

Exploring top landing spots this offseason for Nick Foles

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Exploring top landing spots this offseason for Nick Foles

We’ve already examined all the factors that are going to go into the Eagles’ decision about Nick Foles (see story), but now it’s time to figure out where he’s going to land. 

While oddsmakers left the Eagles on the board, it seems pretty clear that Foles is going to move on to another team one way or another this offseason. I still think the most likely way he leaves is as a free agent, but there could also be a trade if the Eagles can work one out and Foles is agreeable. 

Anyway, let’s try to figure out where Foles will land with the help of some odds. 

OK, let’s go team by team: 

Miami Dolphins
It seems like the Dolphins are ready to move on from Ryan Tannehill as their starting quarterback after six seasons and a 42-46 record. Cutting Tannehill would leave a ton of dead money ($13 million) but would also save $13 million in cap room. If the Dolphins really want to move on, the dead money will be worth it. 

Keeping with the theme of 13, that’s where the Dolphins pick this year. Now, just a few years ago, the Eagles were able to move from 13 to 8 to 2 to draft Carson Wentz, but unless the Dolphins are willing to do that, they’re kind of in no man's land in the middle of the first round wanting a QB in a QB-deficient draft. So maybe they need to go the free agency route. 

Adam Gase is gone and the presumed new head coach will be the Patriots’ Brian Flores. He’ll likely be hired whenever the Patriots’ season is over, either this weekend or in a couple weeks. Maybe he’ll sign the guy he watched outduel Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII. 

Washington Redskins 
Last offseason, they picked up Alex Smith, but his injury is really significant, so it’s time to find somebody new. It would make more sense for them to try to try to get a young quarterback to build around, but they have the 15th pick. 

And Dan Snyder can probably talk himself into thinking they’re a QB away. Remember when the Redskins got off to their 6-3 start in 2018. Well, then they had crazy injuries, so he might look at his team and think they’re a lot closer than they actually are. 

Jacksonville Jaguars 
These odds actually came out before we learned Jacksonville was about to hire John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator, so you can argue they should be even higher on the list now. Flip coached Foles for just one year in Philly, but that year ended with a parade on Broad Street. 

The Jags had a disastrous 5-11 season in 2018, but that came after they were 10-6 the year before. So if they think there’s still enough talent in that locker room to be a playoff team, they might just be one QB away. While Foles threw some interceptions this year, he ain’t Blake Bortles in that respect. He could give the Jags the chance to win close, defensive games as long as he doesn’t make mistakes. 

They do have the seventh pick, though, so maybe the Jaguars ought to think about drafting a QB. 

Denver Broncos
Case Keenum is still under contract in Denver, but they shouldn’t let that change anything they do at the quarterback position. In fact, John Elway told Peter King that Keenum was more of a short-term fix. That doesn’t sound good for Keenum. 

Foles is still just 29, so it’s not like he couldn’t be a longer-term fix. And picking at 10th in the draft doesn’t guarantee the Broncos will be able to draft the next QB either. Foles might be as good an option as any. 

Philadelphia Eagles 
Howie Roseman said on Tuesday that the Eagles would like to keep Foles, but how realistic is that? They’ve committed to Carson Wentz being the quarterback, so can they afford to have an insurance policy of over $20 million? The problem here is that’s money they could use elsewhere to build a team around Wentz. And is it fair to the franchise quarterback to always be looking over his shoulder? Even Wentz admitted there’s an added level of pressure after all of Foles’ success. 

The flip side of this is that Wentz hasn’t stayed healthy. He’s been injured in both of the last two seasons and Foles has stepped in for the playoffs. We’d have to just trust that Wentz is going to stay healthy next season. As insurance policies go, Foles is the best one. 

New York Giants 
Eventually, the Giants have to move on from Eli Manning, right? They really should move on from the 38-year-old quarterback now and I think Foles would make a lot of sense. 

The Giants clearly have some offensive weapons and could use a steadying force like Foles, who has played for head coach Pat Shurmur before. 

The big fear about Foles is that he’ll only work in Philadelphia. Well, why not go to a landing spot with an offense that at least has some similarities? Remember, Shurmur was in Philly for Foles’ Pro Bowl 2013 season under Chip Kelly and comes from the Andy Reid tree, which means his offense has similarities to Pederson’s in some ways too. From a purely football standpoint, I like the Giants as a landing spot. But there are some emotional hurdles to get over. 

Oakland Raiders
Head coach Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock seem to love Foles and they might be ready to move on from Derek Carr in Oakland or wherever the heck they’re going to play this season. Mayock and Gruden both have ties to Philly and are both very familiar with Foles. 

The Raiders also have three first-round picks, so if the Eagles end up trying to trade Foles instead of letting him walk, the Raiders have the firepower to get a deal done — if that’s the way they want to go. 

It doesn’t mean much, but Foles’ seven-touchdown game came against the Raiders in 2013. 

Carolina Panthers
Apparently, Cam Newton might be in danger of missing the 2019 season because of a shoulder injury. So if the Panthers think he’s not around in the 2019 season, they’ll need someone to play quarterback. Enter Nick Foles? 

The problem here is that Foles wants to go to a good situation and I’m not sure this is it. Newton has one more year left on his contract after 2019, which means Foles would have to play well enough to make the Panthers change their organizational direction and go with him instead. Don’t know why he’d choose that as a free agent. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
The Bucs hired Bruce Arians as their head coach, but it seems like they’re sticking with Jameis Winston at QB. If there’s a change, maybe it would make sense for Foles. But if there isn’t, not sure why they’re on the list. 

A bonus one from me: Cincinnati Bengals
I’m not convinced the Bengals are going to stick with Andy Dalton, which would make Foles an attractive option, especially for new head coach Zac Taylor, who is the brother of Eagles QBs coach Press Taylor. The Bengals still have A.J. Green and Joe Mixon, so it might not be that bad of a landing spot for Foles.

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Looking at the wild, injury-plagued year for Eagles’ secondary

Looking at the wild, injury-plagued year for Eagles’ secondary

The Eagles overcame a ton of injuries during the 2017 season on their way to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but the 2018 season was a lot different. 

For a while, all their injuries happened to the same position group. 

By the time the season ended in New Orleans on Sunday, the Eagles had incredibly used 15 defensive backs on defense during the season. No team in the NFL used more and the NFL average was 11.8. 

Of the five starting defensive backs this season, only Malcolm Jenkins remained by season’s end. Three of the five were on IR. 

So here’s a look at all 15 defensive backs the Eagles used this season with their snaps in the regular season and in the playoffs:

Malcolm Jenkins: 1039/141
Jenkins was clearly the glue this season. It’s scary to think about where this team would have been without his play and leadership. He played every single defensive snap in the regular season and playoffs. He was very deservingly named to his third-career Pro Bowl for his efforts this season. He’s under contract for two more seasons. 

Corey Graham: 656/141
Graham was close to retiring before this season, but ended up playing the second most snaps of everyone in this secondary. That was not ideal and Jim Schwartz admitted as much. But after Graham’s fatal error on 4th-and-15 in Nashville, he actually played better. Safe money is on the 33-year-old retiring this offseason. 

Rasul Douglas: 543/118
By the end of the season, Douglas had done enough to warrant serious consideration to be a starting cornerback next season. Sure, he had a shaky start to his season, but ended up leading the team with three interceptions and was a really good tackler. He dealt with some minor injuries too, but played in every game. The defense struggled when he was forced to leave in the divisional round. 

Ronald Darby: 542/0
One of the initial starters, Darby tore his ACL in Week 10 against the Cowboys. The Eagles have an interesting decision to make on Darby. He’s still just 25 and is a free agent, but is also coming off a serious injury. 

Avonte Maddox: 540/135
Maybe Maddox started to get picked on some late in the season, but he had a tremendous rookie season, especially for a fourth-round pick. He played in 13 games as a nickel corner, safety and outside corner. The Eagles missed him when Maddox was out for three games with a knee injury. It’s likely Maddox will be a big part of the secondary in Year 2; we just don’t know where yet. 

Jalen Mills: 457/0
Another starter when the 2018 season began, Mills hurt his foot in London against the Jaguars and was never able to return. In fact, it seemed like his foot kept getting worse and worse. Mills is entering Year 4 in 2019 and is still a Jim Schwartz favorite, so don’t count on him going to the bench. 

Cre’Von LeBlanc: 351/108
Strap was one of the greatest surprises of the 2018 season and the Eagles might have found a hidden gem. They claimed him off waivers on Nov. 5 and he eventually become the Eagles’ nickel corner. He played so well that he ought to be the frontrunner to win that job next season. His INT in the Saints playoff game was incredible. 

Sidney Jones: 322/0 
A really disappointing season for the former second-round pick. After missing most of his rookie season as he recovered from an Achilles tear, he played in just nine games this season because of hamstring injuries. The lasting image of his 2018 season will be from the first Saints game, when Drew Brees kept picking on the injured corner. But it’s too early to call him a bust. Jones is still just 22 and will be in the mix for a job next spring and summer. 

Tre Sullivan: 219/87
Sullivan ended up being another pleasant surprise. He was on the initial roster, but then spent a month on the practice squad before rejoining the 53. By the end of the season, the Eagles felt comfortable enough to use him frequently at safety while Jenkins slid into the box. Big strides from Sullivan this season. 

Rodney McLeod: 162/0
The Eagles lost McLeod to an ACL injury in the third game of the season and he was missed the rest of the year, but stayed as involved as he could. The Eagles might ask him to restructure his contract, but they could definitely use him back next season. 

De’Vante Bausby: 147/0
There was a time in the spring where Bausby was getting first-team nickel reps, but he didn’t make the Eagles’ initial roster and didn’t last long on the practice squad the first time. Eventually in November, the Eagles added him to the practice squad and called him up on Nov. 17. But he was waived on Dec. 24 after a few subpar performances. He started against the Giants along with Chandon Sullivan. That really happened. 

Dexter McDougle: 106/0
Remember this guy? He was actually on the team this season and was briefly the Eagles’ starting nickel corner. He was on the roster for just a month, though, and was released to make room for LeBlanc. McDougle’s performance in London was awful and he was released before the next game. 

Chandon Sullivan: 87/0
Thanks to other injuries, Sullivan was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 25 and was on the roster until he was waived on Dec. 24. In those two months, he played in five games and had one start. Even Sullivan suffered an injury this season. 

Deiondre’ Hall: 6/0
The Eagles traded a seventh-round pick for Hall, who was primarily a special teams player for the Eagles. It was probably a little telling that the Eagles refused to play Hall at safety even when they had a need for healthy defensive backs. He seemed to be a pretty important teams player though. 

Josh Hawkins: 0/21  
Hawkins was signed to the practice squad on Dec. 11 and was promoted to the active roster on Dec. 24. His only playing time came in the divisional round game, when he was thrust into action against the Saints and Brees immediately threw to his side for a touchdown. Tough spot for the young defensive back. But that’s how things went all season. 

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