The NFL Draft is always a rollercoaster of unpredictability, but there was one element of certainty heading into day three. The Eagles were going to select a quarterback. Jeffery Lurie stated that he wanted the team to get back to drafting a signal-caller every year, or at least every other year, and the perfect candidate was sat there in round five.
Easton Stick out of North Dakota State was not only familiar with Carson Wentz as a former mentor and teammate but had the big frame, confidence, and offensive experience that would fit the team perfectly. But then, out of nowhere, the L.A Chargers jumped a pick ahead of the Eagles to snatch him from their likely grasp. Still needing a QB, the Eagles punched their ticket for Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson, someone who Doug Pederson likely relates too.
Thorson has the size and athletic traits that Pederson covets in his quarterbacks at 6’4, 222 lbs, but he doesn’t have the accuracy just yet.
He averaged 6.8 yards per pass and threw 27 picks in his last 27 collegiate games. But the Eagles are willing to look past that to nurture a natural talent. The Eagles have built a quarterback coaching environment like no other, comprised of men who had previously played the position and can bring that first-person insight to the table…which is exactly what Thorson needs.
It’s been a bumpy Summer for the rookie who came off a torn ACL to lead Northwestern to a Bowl game. Cody Kessler, at least for now, looks to have surpassed him after some wobbly passes, strange decisions and continued inconsistencies. But when asked about his progress, the coaches were focused less on the final product, and more of the backbone.
“Clayton [Thorson] is improving every day. He’s getting a little bit better.” Doug Pederson said. “He’s seeing the field a little bit better, making some nice throws, anticipatory-type throws, throwing things on time, rhythm, things that we teach our quarterbacks. Just showing improvement every day.”
Maybe it’s because in contrast to Nate Sudfeld or even Carson Wentz, Thorson is quite some way off, and he was never going to be on the same level as a former third-round pick who has started in 17 games already. Mike Groh added some context to what we’ve seen so far on Wednesday.
” I think I’ve used this analogy in the past, but any time that you’re new to a system and you have everything on your plate like quarterbacks do in the National Football League, not only are you trying to learn just what you have to do, but you have to direct traffic for everybody else.” The Eagles offensive coordinator said. “So you have to be able to spit the play call out in the huddle, and some of them are shorter than others. But that’s just part of it. That’s just getting the play started. Then once you get up there, you have to be able to react to what the defense is giving to you, and we’re getting multiple looks from our defense right now, which is really good for us. It’s challenging us every day offensively, to stay up with the defense, stay one step ahead of the defense. So not only are you managing your game, but the game of the players in the huddle with you and then also having to react to what the defense is giving you. So there is a lot coming at a young guy.”
Thorson broke records for games started, touchdowns, yards and completions during his time with Northwestern, winning three bowl-games in the process. His deep ball accuracy was never something to write home about, hence why he only averaged 6.8 yards per pass, but this is a quarterback in the mold of a game-manager who does have some mobility outside the pocket. And with that in mind, he defines the term ‘project arm’. You won’t see overnight change, but maybe year-to-year in the same way many did with Sudfeld.
Media and fans never got to see Sudfeld’s first few weeks as an Eagle. He was poached from Washington just before their week 1 clash and stashed away to work and learn away from the spotlight. Thorson and his rawness meanwhile, is on show for the world to see. But Groh remains confident in the rookie to keep improving.
“I think what he’s done a good job of is his grasp of the system is good for where we are at thing point and how long he’s been here.” He said. “His ability to communicate that in the huddle, his demeanor in the huddle is really good. I think he does a really good job enunciating the play calls. There’s no, “What was the play”; guys hear it. So he’s very demonstrative in that way. I think he handles himself with poise at the line of scrimmage, and now he’s just getting comfortable with the reads and the progressions.
What happens when No. 1 and No. 2 is not there, where’s No. 3, or I skip from 1 to 3 knowing exactly where that guy is and how my feet are coordinated with the throw and all those things that just take a little bit of time.”
Thorson may have a long way to go, but he was always going to and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The real question now becomes, just how invested are the Eagles in Thorson, and is it a project worth the price to pay?
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports