Week 17 may have been meaningless for some, but not for Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The Indiana product had his first taste of NFL action in Sunday’s loss to Dallas, completing 19/23 passes for 134 yards. It wasn’t perfect, but the Eagles got the answer they were looking for. A competent backup who wouldn’t crumble under the pressure should the moment ever arise.
“I thought he played pretty good.” Doug Pederson told reporters after the game on Sunday. “He was able to move the team. Without watching the tape tomorrow and getting in here and checking it out, there were probably a couple decisions that we would like to fix or he would have back. But I thought, overall, he did a pretty good job with really just coming to us new at the end of camp there. Again, did some nice things outside of maybe one, two, or three decisions during the game.”
The only real downside was the lack of offensive production. Shutout by the Cowboys, the Eagles simply couldn’t get into enemy territory, with seven penalties chaining some promising drives back inside their own half. A huge completion on third and long to Marcus Johnson was negated due to a penalty, undoing the minimal momentum that the offense built. However, Sudfeld was more than aware of his own performance and the first to own up to his mistakes.
“I felt like there were some plays that we weren’t able to finish.” Sudfeld mentioned after the loss. “I felt like I took two sacks that I shouldn’t have. Overall, you want to actually get points and finish drives, but we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. But I still feel like it was all there, we just kind of didn’t play to our best.”
What was really impressive was Sudfeld’s composure. But that should come as no surprise. Completing a total of 60.3% of his passes during his time at Indiana for 61 touchdowns and 20 picks, Sudfeld was as accurate as quarterbacks come. Executing the Eagles offense efficiently was something the 6’6, 240 lbs signal caller did well. Some big throws to Marcus Johnson headlined the afternoon, but it was a huge 22-yard rush that showed a side to the position that Nick Foles doesn’t bring. Again, this wasn’t a surprise. With 8 career rushing scores and 132 rushing yards during his time with Indiana, Sudfeld has rare athleticism for a quarterback of his frame. With some experience under his belt, Sudfeld should at least give the Eagles some confidence, just as it has to their backup QB.
“I think reps always help, absolutely.” Sudfeld explained in the locker room. “I felt confident before today that I could go in and do my part and help this team win, but stacking some reps together is awesome. I’m more confident than ever in my ability and I know that I can help this team out if they need me.”
With live-game experience under his belt, Sudfeld showed the Eagles that he’s capable of protecting the ball and making smart decisions, something even Foles was unable to do on Sunday. He may not be the most polished quarterback in the league, but if the Eagles had to just control tempo and hold a lead, the Eagles can feel comfortable and confident with their project quarterback.
“He handled it really well.” His Head Coach would later explain. “The communication from sideline to quarterback was good. He was able to get in, spit the plays out, call the plays in the huddle, get to the line of scrimmage, and execute the offense. We still kept the same kill-system packages and the sort of check-with-me plays in the game plan when he was in there. That’s a good way to really see where he is mentally; he handled that pretty well.”
Even teammates on the other side of the ball were quick to give him praise. Defensive tackle Beau Allen recognized the magnitude of the challenge given to the quarterback whose previous experience came in the way of preseason and nothing more.
“Nate Sudfeld had never played in the NFL and I thought he did a hell of a job.”
A small sign of positivity for a team with plenty of questions over the form of their starting quarterback.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports