December 22, 2017
When the Philadelphia Eagles signed Nate Sudfeld to their practice squad way back before Week 1 of the regular season, many wondered if they did so just to gain a player with knowledge of the Washington Redskins' offense. Sudfeld had just been waived at 53-man cutdowns by Washington, who also happened to be the Eagles first opponent this year.
As it turned out, the Eagles were interested in Sudfeld as more than a spy, as they made him one of the highest-paid practice squad players in the NFL. In November, when the Indianapolis Colts tried to sign Sudfeld away from the team, the Eagles quickly added him to their 53-man roster.
With Carson Wentz done for the season with a torn ACL, Sudfeld, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick with zero career pass attempts as a pro, is now just one Nick Foles injury away from guiding the team with the best record in the NFL through the playoffs.
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich believes that Sudfeld is ready.
"I feel very confident and comfortable with Nate," he said. "Having been around the position a long time and getting a sense for how guys see and think and understand the game and how they process it, seeing them work on the field. I just have a high degree of confidence.
"Ultimately he hasn't done it in a game, so that part is still to be determined. But as much confidence as you have in a guy, he mentally gets it. Just the way he talks about the game, it's like, OK, yeah, this is it, he gets it, he talks about it like Carson and Nick do. They're all on the same page. It's really comforting. Even though he hasn't done it live and in action in a regular-season game, still a lot of confidence."
Reich also believes that Sudfeld has played well in practice recently.
"I think he's an accurate passer," said Reich. "I think he's really good fundamentally. He has really good mechanics. I think he's accurate. I think he's a good decision maker. I think he had his best week of practice last week, running the scout team. He ran more scout team reps last week than he has obviously all year, because Nick was taking the first-team reps. To be honest, Nate was turning heads in practice. Ask anybody what kind of practice Nate Sudfeld had last week. They'll tell you he was turning heads."
Doug Pederson agreed with Reich's assessment.
"He had a really good week in practice," said Pederson. "He prides himself in getting his work in and getting his work done. We’re comfortable with him being the backup. But, yeah, last week I thought was probably his best week. Really even prior to that he hasn't gotten a lot of practice reps because Nick was always taking those reps. He stepped in there, did a nice job, continues to grow and continues to work.
"Anticipation, ball location, the accuracy and timing of throws, the way he moves in the pocket, and the subtle movements. Really, he's taken that drill work that Coach DeFilippo has done with him throughout the course of the year, and he used that in practice. So those things have begun to show up in practice last week. It was a positive thing to see."
At the University of Indiana, Sudfeld got playing time in all four of his years in college, and he put up very consistent numbers.
|Nate Sudfeld||Comp-Att (Comp %)||Yards (YPA)||TD-INT|
|2012||51-81 (62.2%)||632 (7.7)||7-1|
|2013||194-322 (60.2%)||2523 (7.8)||21-9|
|2014||101-167 (60.5%)||1151 (6.9)||6-3|
|2015||247-412 (60.0%)||3573 (8.7)||27-7|
|TOTAL||593-983 (60.3%)||7879 (8.0)||61-20|
With a career 8.0 yards per attempt average and a 61-20 TD-INT ratio, Sudfeld had a solid college career. Here's a scouting report from Lance Zierlein of NFL.com on Sudfeld when he came out of Indiana:
STRENGTHS Steps onto the field with terrific NFL size. Three-year starter who lead Big Ten in yards per pass play at 8.2 yards. Comfortable operating in timing based systems and shows ability to throw with desired anticipation. Ball usually comes out on time. Able to expedite throws when pressure finds him early. Feels pressure and gets rid of the ball over taking the sack. Makes catchable, accurate throws from the pocket. Shows off NFL arm when he steps and drives to target. Does not fear the field side throws and has arm and accuracy to make them. Puts plenty of air under touch throws allowing receivers a chance to make a play. Showed off consistent touch on deep corners. Competitive as a runner and lays out for first downs over sliding early.
WEAKNESSES Sets up with a very wide throwing base and slight dip in his delivery. Rarely gets full hip rotation through delivery forcing him to push throws. Touch in close quarters is below average. Field vision is only average. Inconsistent with reads against zone coverage. Makes up his mind and opts for tougher throws over open throws. Struggled in this way against Iowa. At times, rushes throws over sliding in pocket waiting for routes to develop. Saw substantial dip in completion percentage when rushed by five-plus defenders. Underthrows were culprit with deep ball accuracy. Not much of a threat with his legs.
Because there's no pro tape of Sudfeld in meaningful games, we took a look at his work in the preseason for the Redskins prior to this season. The Redskins are a team with an unsettled quarterback situation, with Kirk Cousins having played under the franchise tag this season. Despite that, they still ended up waiving Sudfeld, so prepare to be underwhelmed by the following video. (To note, in the Buccaneers game, the throws are not in chronological order. I’m not sure how that happened, but you’ll still get the idea.)
While the preseason can often give bad reads on what a player is, especially for quarterbacks playing behind third- and fourth-string offensive lines along with wide receivers who have no chance of making the team, you do see some of the good and bad from Zierlein's scouting report above.
"I personally think I'm light years ahead of where I was even this preseason," Sudfeld said.
Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo has worked wonders with Wentz as well as David Carr, so there's reason to believe that Sudfeld is a better player now than he was when he played for the Redskins this offseason. We'll see, maybe.
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