Will Nate Sudfeld be the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback in 2020?
Not enough to make him the team’s primary backup quarterback in 2019 or to not draft a high-upside Heisman finalist in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft mind you, but after tendering the former sixth-round pick at a second-round level one spring prior, the Eagles gave Sudfeld a one-year, $2 million deal to stick around in 2020 before free agency even opened up.
However, the presence of Jalen Hurts has to change that, right?
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Well, maybe not.
According to Matt Mullin of The Philly Voice, Doug Pederson is reportedly very confident in Sudfeld as a backup quarterback and believes that the 26-year-old signal-caller already has a significant advantage over Hurts in securing the role this fall.
Wait, what? Now I’m all for positivity in the offseason – as every team is undefeated and will remain so for the foreseeable future – but Sudfeld was so lukewarm in 2019 that the Eagles had to wrangle Josh McCown out of retirement for one last rodeo in the NFL to avoid straddling the former sixth-round-pick with an expanded workload should Carson Wentz go down.
Heck, I was getting ready to write about Sudfeld being traded to the Indianapolis Colts and now I have to mentally shift gears to him playing over Hurts? What exactly has changed?
Well, sort of everything.
You see, while Hurts is certainly a more intriguing offensive weapon than Sudfeld both now and moving forward, he’s still a work in progress as an NFL-caliber passer. Without a chance for the coaching staff to get their hands on him in person this spring, its anyone’s guess as to how seamlessly the former OklaBama quarterback would slot into Pederson’s offensive scheme.
Frankly, it’s anyone’s guess as to just how well Hurts will even know Pederson’s offense when the preseason rolls around, as he will surely miss out on a ton of opportunities to run the show on the field with his new teammates thanks to the virtual offseason program. With four seasons in South Philly under his belt, Sudfeld should know the Eagles’ offense like the back of his hand and easily traverse any new wrinkles added thanks to a fluency in the team’s terminology.
But hey, maybe that was the plan all along.
As you’ve probably seen ad nauseam, the Eagles drafted Hurts not only as a developmental prospect but also to be deployed for a half a dozen or so snaps a game in a Taysom Hill-role. Like Hill, Hurts is a playmaker in space who becomes all the more deadly thanks to his ability to make plays as a passer. But as we’ve seen in New Orleans, that sort of gimmicky play just doesn’t work over a 120 snap NFL game.
In 2019, the Saints utilized Teddy Bridgewater as their backup quarterback while continuing to use Hill like a dash of Taco Bell fire sauce. Despite Sean Payton declaring Hill a potential franchise quarterback this offseason, the team still opted to sign Jameis Winston to a one-year, prove-it deal to serve as Drew Brees’ backup in 2020.
Maybe that’s also the Eagles’ plan to some degree; use Hurts in a dedicated Hurts package regardless of whether Wentz or Sudfeld is the team’s starter.
At this point in the NFL offseason, trying to predict what will happen in Week 1 is sort of a fool’s errand. We haven’t seen any of the Philadelphia Eagles’ new players take the field, we haven’t had to account for any injuries, and we don’t know what new wrinkles have been added to each phase of the team’s schematic oeuvre. Carson Wentz started out his rookie season as a third-stringer before a Sam Bradford trade leapfrogged him over Chase Daniel to be a Week 1 starter. Still, barring something truly unforeseen – like a trade to the Colts – expect to see Nate Sudfeld on the sidelines later this fall.