Nate Sudfeld

Why Eagles should quarantine a quarterback for the 2020 season

Why Eagles should quarantine a quarterback for the 2020 season

As we prepare to enter an unprecedented 2020 NFL season in a little over a month, one thing is become clearer as training camp continues: 

The Eagles should quarantine a quarterback. 

The big news in Philadelphia as the weekend came to a close was that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, but that wasn’t the only important NFL news over the weekend. Because two starting NFL quarterbacks — Matt Stafford in Detroit and Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville — were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and will have to clear protocols before returning. 

With that in mind, the Eagles can’t open themselves up to the possibility of not having a quarterback ready to play each Sunday during the season. What if Carson Wentz contracts the virus? Worse, what if the coronavirus spreads through the quarterback room? It’s one thing to lose a running back or an offensive lineman or even a head coach. But every team needs a quarterback to be competitive. 

Every team needs a plan. 

Earlier in the offseason, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians was on Chris Long’s Green Light podcast and said he might quarantine a quarterback. Pederson in June said it’s something they would consider. 

On Monday, I asked Pederson if he had given any more thought to the possibility of doing that. 

It's unfortunate that that happens,” Pederson said on a Zoom call. “I think we know that these things are going to happen probably throughout the course of the season.

“If it happens, and you hope it happens early enough to where you don't get to the regular season, but conversations that are ongoing still with my staff and the offensive guys on staff, Press [Taylor] and Rich [Scangarello], Marty [Mornhinweg], those guys, and haven't decided anything yet on that, obviously, but it is something to consider as we move forward.

The Eagles should quarantine a quarterback as an insurance policy and the obvious choice is Nate Sudfeld. 

Wentz is the starter and needs practice time. Hopefully for the Eagles, Wentz stays healthy and is able to play an entire season. If that happens, he’ll need to be game planning each week for the upcoming opponent and getting in reps with the first-string offense. And third-string quarterback Jalen Hurts needs to be at practice and in the quarterback room too. As a rookie, the 2nd-round pick is playing catch-up after an unusual offseason. In-person practices and meeting time are both really important for him.  

They won’t be as important for Sudfeld, who is entering his fourth season with the Eagles and fourth season in Pederson’s offense. 

Sudfeld, 26, hasn’t played much in the NFL. He has attempted just 25 career passes. But he’s the Eagles’ backup quarterback for this upcoming season and there’s a good chance he’s going to have to play at some point. 

What I’m proposing is that the Eagles allow Sudfeld to practice and participate normally at training camp for now but remove him and begin quarantining him two weeks before the season. He would still be able to participate virtually in the meeting rooms and while he’d miss practice time, he’d still be able to work out and stay in shape on his own. 

The phrase “quarantine” might be a little too strong. Really, what I’m proposing here is that the Eagles take extra precautions with Sudfeld and don’t expose him any more than they have to. 

Will all that guarantee that he doesn’t contract the virus? No, it won’t. But it will minimize the chance and give the Eagles an insurance policy at the most important position in the sport. 

If this 2020 season happens, players are going to test positive. Coaches are going to test positive. Guys are going to miss games. 

What the Eagles absolutely can’t afford is to go into any Sunday without a legitimate quarterback and expect to have a chance to win. The best way to avoid that scenario is to exercise extreme caution with their backup and hope it was all for naught. 

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Most important Eagles for 2020: Nate Sudfeld comes in at 20

Most important Eagles for 2020: Nate Sudfeld comes in at 20

Over the next four weeks, we’ll be counting down the 20 most important Eagles for the 2020 season. 

20. Nate Sudfeld 

We start off the countdown with a player the Eagles hope doesn’t see the field at all this season. But delicately side-stepping the “Carson Wentz/injury prone discussion” the fact remains that the Eagles haven’t had their starting quarterback on the field to end their season in each of the last three years. 

The backup quarterback is an important position. And even though the Eagles used their second-round pick on Jalen Hurts, Sudfeld is still expected to be the second-stringer for this upcoming season. 

The crazy thing is that Sudfeld was supposed to be the backup quarterback in 2019 too, but he broke his non-throwing wrist in the summer. (It was the first broken bone ever for Sudfeld.) That led to the Eagles’ signing Josh McCown and McCown probably wasn’t coming out of retirement to eventually be a third-string quarterback, so he kept the job all season. So if Sudfeld didn’t get hurt in the summer, it would have been him out there finishing off the Seattle playoff game and who knows what would have happened. We’ll never know. 

There are plenty of reasons to like Sudfeld, but the 26-year-old just hasn’t played that much in the NFL. He has a total of 25 career passing attempts under his belt. 

The good news is that Sudfeld certainly looks the part. He’s 6-foot-6, has a big arm, can move well in and out of the pocket and has been here now for three full seasons so he should have a tremendous grasp on the playbook and Doug Pederson’s offensive philosophy. 

But we just don’t know. It’s impossible to know. 

For their part, the Eagles have always shown confidence in Sudfeld. They brought him into the building in 2017 after he spent one year with the Redskins, who drafted him in the sixth round out of Indiana. And in 2017 when the Colts came calling, the Eagles promoted him to the active roster so they wouldn’t lose him. 

In 2017 and 2018 when Wentz went down with injuries, the Eagles never signed another backup behind Nick Foles. If anything happened to Foles during the Super Bowl run a few years ago, the season would have been on Sudfeld’s shoulders. That’s a lot of confidence to show in a young player. 

The Eagles signed Sudfeld to a one-year, $2 million deal this offseason but are clearly planning to move on after this season. Sudfeld wants to find a situation where he can compete for a starting job — we’ll see if that happens — and the Eagles didn’t draft Hurts to be their long-term third-stringer. 

But for the 2020 season? Sudfeld is a really important player, but the Eagles hope he doesn’t get in. 

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How one former Eagle sees Doug Pederson using Jalen Hurts in his rookie year

How one former Eagle sees Doug Pederson using Jalen Hurts in his rookie year

Former Eagles great and current Eagles radio analyst Mike Quick spends plenty of time around the team, both in- and out-of-season.

So when Quick chooses to hop on NFL Network and offer up his thoughts on the Eagles' 2020 plans, it's worth stopping and listening.

Last month, Doug Pederson turned a few heads when he effectively guaranteed the backup quarterback position to Nate Sudfeld, even after the Eagles spent valuable capital in a second-round draft pick on Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Which brought up the question: What will Hurts' role be, exactly, when the Eagles begin their season in September?

Here's what Quick had to say about what he thinks Hurts will be doing as a rookie:

QUICK: So I think that, initially, [Pederson] will use [Hurts] pretty much as a gadget guy. You look around the NFL, and all of these guys that are smart play callers, and guys who plan plays, they do a lot of things now that we haven't seen in conventional football. Doug Pederson is one of those guys who likes to come up with things that no one's seen, so I think they'll use Jalen Hurts in a number of ways.

It sounds like Hurts' rookie year will be more smoke and mirror, and less substantive quarterback play.

The Eagles will likely benefit most, long-term, from using Hurts as a true quarterback rather than an offbeat gadget play in the Taysom Hill mold. In three years, Hill hasn't shown himself to be of much value outside a few snaps per game. If the Eagles plan on eventually moving Hurts for assets, they'd rather let other teams see him play like an NFL-ready quarterback.

But in the short-term, the chances to put Hurts in that position will be few and far between.

This certainly isn't the first time we've heard someone discuss Hurts as a potential gadget weapon in his first year. That was essentially everyone's first take in the days following his selection, before a wave of "No, he's going to be a real quarterback" followed.

But it's noteworthy to hear a guy like Quick, considering his relationship with the organization, say that he expects Hurts to take on a gadget-type role in his rookie year.

Earlier this offseason, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro examined how exactly the Eagles can wiggle Hurts into their game plans, even as the third-string quarterback:

If there’s a chance for Hurts to even play any kind of a role as a rookie, the Eagles will probably need to keep three quarterbacks active on game day. But if they’re going to be using Hurts as anything other than a quarterback, that’s probably not a bad idea. 

The Eagles have tried to say multiple times that Hurts is a quarterback first and they’re going to develop him as a quarterback. But they’ve also dropped hints along the way that they have some plans for him as a non-traditional quarterback to begin his career. 

And NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank predicted last month that Pederson will use Hurts in very specific situations this season:

7. What about Jalen Hurts?: I’m not sure he’ll justify where he was drafted, but I do expect Hurts to make an impact, mainly as a short-yardage and goal-line runner.

Prediction: Hurts becomes the first Eagles rookie with five rushing TDs in a season since Don “Heartbeat” Johnson in 1953. 

Hurts' role in Pederson's offense will probably be one of the more compelling storylines, all season long.

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