Nate Sudfeld

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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More on the Eagles

10 non-rookies with something to prove at Eagles OTAs

10 non-rookies with something to prove at Eagles OTAs

These practices don’t have pads or hitting or even anything that really resembles real football.

It’s still a chance for players with plenty to prove.

The Eagles kick off OTAs this week and we already know the rookie class will want to prove they belong in the NFL, so we’re taking them out of our thought process for a moment. Because OTAs can also be a proving ground for guys who have already been in the league.

Here are 10 on the Eagles’ roster:

Nate Sudfeld
The Eagles brought in Cody Kessler to compete with Sudfeld, but Sudfeld is entering his third season with the Eagles, while this will be Kessler’s third team in three years. The Eagles already paid Sudfeld $3 million for this season, so they have a vested interest in his winning the backup job. And Sudfeld should have an advantage based on his familiarity with the offense. He should come out in these OTAs and be wayyyy ahead of Kessler, building a lead that can’t be overcome.

Tre Sullivan
The Eagles signed Andrew Sendejo and claimed Blake Countess, but Tre Sullivan still has a chance to win the Eagles’ pretty important third safety job. Undrafted out of Shepard in 2017, Sullivan played important snaps late in 2018 and might have more room to grow. Sendejo isn’t a lock for the team and Countess hasn’t played a ton on defense in the league.

Cre’Von LeBlanc
One of the big revelations of last season was LeBlanc, whom the Eagles claimed off waivers in November. He shored up the nickel cornerback spot and now "Strap" has a chance to win a job again this season, but there’s some competition. LeBlanc needs to prove last year wasn’t a fluke.

Mack Hollins
After a decent rookie season for a fourth-rounder, Hollins lost his 2017 season in mysterious fashion. A few days after he said he was healthy, the Eagles put him on IR and we haven’t seen him since. He’s presumably healthy now and he needs to prove it.

Braxton Miller
He came aboard during last season as a practice squad player but might still have upside. The former third-round pick is 26 but is relatively new to the receiver position. Doug Pederson has talked up Miller this offseason, so maybe he could find a role as a gadget player/return man on the roster.

Treyvon Hester
The Eagles added Hassan Ridgeway in a trade but Hester can still fight for playing time, which will be somewhat limited behind Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan. Hester should have an advantage because he’s been in the defense for a while and already gave the Eagles solid snaps last season.

Josh Sweat
It was a disappointing rookie season for Sweat, who played just 68 snaps with four tackles before ending the year on IR with an ankle injury in December. But he certainly looks the part and important spring and summer camps await him as he battles for a roster spot. 

Greg Ward
After a brief stint in the short-lived AAF, Ward has another shot at an NFL roster. The former college QB is another one like Miller who could become a gadgety/return man in the NFL, but his chances are running out.

Nathan Gerry
A fifth-round pick in 2017, Gerry hasn’t gotten many opportunities on defense, but he did play 134 snaps last season. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot with Paul Worrilow, T.J. Edwards and B.J. Bello. The thing to remember about Gerry is that he’s making a position switch from college safety and is more athletic than those guys. I still like his chances.

Blake Countess
The Eagles claimed Countess and then extended him for a year but that extension also included a pay cut for 2019. So how much do they really like him? We’ll start to see that pretty soon. First, Countess will need to show he’s learned a thing or two in his years away from the Eagles. Like Tre Sullivan, he will be fighting for playing time this year if he makes the team.

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More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye Podcast: Nate Sudfeld joins the podcast!

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Eagle Eye Podcast: Nate Sudfeld joins the podcast!

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro discuss the possibility of Joe Douglas taking the Jets' GM job. Why this isn't a surprise.

Nate Sudfeld joins the podcast. He talks about the effect Nick Foles has had on him, his role as the No. 2 QB and Saturday's Eagles Autism Challenge.

1:00 — What are the Jets doing? Is Douglas going there?
6:00 — Howie Roseman's maturation over time.
14:00 — Sudfeld joins the podcast!
16:00 — Losing Foles but gaining Clayton Thorson and Cody Kessler.
24:30 — Nate's recent trip to Uganda.
31:00 — Eagles Autism Challenge.

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