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July 09, 2020

Eagles 2020 training camp preview: Quarterback

Eagles NFL
Hurts-Sudfeld_051920 USA TODAY and Kate Freese/FILE

Can Jalen Hurts prove enough this offseason to supplant Nate Sudfeld as Carson Wentz' backup?

Over the next three weeks or so (basically whenever there isn't other news to cover), we'll take a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp, assuming, you know, there is a training camp. As always, we'll start with the quarterbacks.

 1
 Carson WentzNate Sudfeld Jalen Hurts Kyle Lauletta 

Carson Wentz

For the first time since his rookie season in 2016, Carson Wentz started all 16 regular season games. There were some ups and downs along the way, but Wentz put any doubts about his status as the franchise quarterback to bed during the Eagles' late season run to the playoffs when he put an injury-devastated team on his back and willed them to four straight wins.

In the playoffs, as you all saw, Wentz tried to turn a busted screen play into positive yardage, and was concussed on a dirty Jadeveon Clowney cheap shot. For the third straight season, a backup quarterback finished the Eagles' season.

In 2019, Wentz played with perhaps the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL, arguably the second time he has had to do so in his four year career (the other being 2016). During the offseason, while the front office added a number of pieces to the defense, they did nothing to help Wentz in free agency. They did add a bunch of speed receivers in the draft, most notably first round pick Jalen Reagor, but was that enough, especially in the short-term?

Wentz does have an advantage over the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFC East, in that he and Doug Pederson will be paired for their fifth season, while every other quarterback in the division will have to adjust to coaching staff changes, and in the case of Dak Prescott, an ongoing contract stalemate.

In what is likely to be an abbreviated version of training camp, the expectation here is that Wentz will get a higher percentage of the quarterback reps than he otherwise would.

Wentz's challenge in 2020 will once again be to stay healthy, and navigate yet another season with uncertainty at the wide receiver position. His job wasn't made any easier after DeSean Jackson indefensibly posted quotes he attributed to Hitler on his Instagram account, creating a distraction that will undoubtedly linger throughout the summer, and maybe beyond. This offseason, Wentz seems to have taken an interest in some of the issues many of his teammates face:

On a humanity level, good for him. On a leadership level, good for the team.

Nate Sudfeld

Looking back at training camp a year ago, the Eagles looked like they were heading into 2019 with Sudfeld as the No. 2 quarterback. However, it seemed at times that they weren't 100 percent sold on Sudfeld's readiness as the team's primary backup quarterback, despite what they said publicly. When Sudfeld injured his wrist during a preseason game — coupled with both Cody Kessler and Clayton Thorson looking woefully inept — that finally convinced the Eagles to coax Josh McCown out of retirement to be the No. 2.

Side note: Are we allowed to say that Sudfeld would have played better than McCown in the Eagles' playoff matchup against the Seahawks after Wentz went down? Because, uh, I think Sudfeld would have played better.

Anyway, after that preseason wrist injury, Sudfeld never regained the primary backup job, and resumed his role as the No. 3 for the third straight season.

In 2019, Sudfeld cost $3,095,000 on the cap as a restricted free agent. As an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he signed back to the team on a one-year deal worth $2 million.

In the early portion of the offseason, it was looking like Sudfeld would have a chance to be the No. 2 again, barring the signing of a veteran quarterback. And then, completely unexpectedly, the Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round.

Pederson said in a conference call in May that Sudfeld will likely be the No. 2 ahead of Hurts.

"Having played in this league for so long and seeing this pandemic and thinking back to when we came out of the lockout year, I think early on in this season, this becomes a veteran-laden football season," he said. "Football teams are going to have to rely on their veteran players, and Nate is one of those guys for us. He's been on our roster the last couple of seasons and he knows exactly what we are doing. I have a ton of confidence in Nate to become the backup quarterback. Nothing is ever handed to anybody, and we always try to create, I always try to create competition at every position, and quarterback, as you guys know, is not exempt from that.

"But I fully expect Nate to come in and be aggressive and do the things that he's capable of doing, and become the backup to Carson. And then with Jalen, Jalen is about, right now, just learning and picking up our system, and he’s another one, another young player that we drafted who, there's a lot to learn from the quarterback position."

To back up Pederson's "he knows exactly what we are doing" point, Sudfeld has a longer tenure with the Eagles than all but three No. 2 quarterbacks across the NFL (using Ourlads' depth charts)

Team Player With current team since... 
Falcons Matt Schaub Mar-16
Bears Mitchell Trubisky Apr-17
49ers Nick Mullins May-17
Eagles Nate Sudfeld Sep-17
Colts Jacoby Brissett Sep-17
Bills Matt Barkley Mar-18
Steelers Mason Rudolph Mar-18
Chiefs Chad Henne Mar-18
Ravens Robert Griffin III Apr-18
Titans Logan Woodside Sep-18
Texans AJ McCarron Mar-19
Buccaneers Blaine Gabbert Mar-19
Cardinals Brett Hundley Mar-19
Patriots Jarrett Stidham Apr-19
Bengals Ryan Finley Apr-19
Vikings Sean Mannion Apr-19
Panthers Will Grier Apr-19
Rams John Wolford Apr-19
Seahawks Geno Smith May-19
Browns Case Keenum Mar-20
Broncos Jeff Driskel Mar-20
Raiders Marcus Mariota Mar-20
Giants Colt McCoy Mar-20
Washington Kyle Allen Mar-20
Lions Chase Daniel Mar-20
Dolphins Tua Tagovailoa Apr-20
Chargers Justin Herbert Apr-20
Packers Jordan Love Apr-20
Saints Jameis Winston Apr-20
Jets Joe Flacco May-20
Jaguars Mike Glennon May-20
Cowboys Andy Dalton May-20

As a player, Sudfeld throws a pretty deep ball, he has nice touch, decent enough arm strength, and better mobility than you might think of a 6'6 guy. In my view, he is a perfectly cromulent No. 2, but it's only a matter of time before Hurts overtakes him, one would think.

Jalen Hurts

When the Eagles selected Hurts in the second round of the 2020 draft, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. As a refresher for the analysis at the time of the pick, I went back and looked at our Eagles draft grades, and mostly still feel the same way now about the pick that I did then.

Really the only good argument for drafting Hurts is a valid concern over Wentz's injury history, but overall in my view, the reasons for selecting a player at some other position of need in a loaded draft far outweighed the limited upside of taking a backup quarterback when you already have a 27-year-old franchise quarterback who is a borderline top 5 talent.

Getting past the wisdom (or lack thereof, depending on your viewpoint) of making that pick, Hurts is here, and he's an intriguing player I look forward to watching in camp. Unfortunately, as noted above, in a shortened offseason, he may not get many quality reps. There's a possibility that Hurts could even be inactive on game day, at least early in the season.

Kyle Lauletta

The Eagles signed Lauletta to their practice squad after the Giants waived him at 53-man cutdowns a season ago. Since media folks like myself only get to watch full practices in training camp -- and not the regular season -- I have never seen Lauletta play in person, and thus have no strong opinions about his game.

Lauletta still has some practice squad eligibility, so he could maybe be back in that role, but he's almost certainly not cracking the 53-man roster unless something terrible happens to Wentz, Sudfeld, or Hurts.

2020 outlook

We all joked about the "quarterback factory" comment by Howie Roseman after the Eagles' selection of Hurts, but overall, there aren't too many teams that wouldn't trade their quarterback situation for the Eagles' in half a heartbeat. It's a strong group, and any season in which Wentz is able to stay healthy should be cause for some level of optimism for the team's chances of making a run in the playoffs.


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