PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback situation is in a state of flux. Nick Foles is gone and now his heir apparent, Nate Sudfeld, is hurt. Where do the Eagles go from here, and how does this latest news affect how they handle Carson Wentz for the rest of the preseason?
Let’s dive in.
Sudfeld, slotted at the No. 2 on the depth chart, suffered a fracture in his non-throwing wrist late in the first half of Thursday night’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans and had surgery Friday morning. It’s not a season-ending injury. It’s estimated he could be out about six weeks, which would make him available in late September.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson sounded inclined to ride the injury out rather than look to the outside for help.
“Right now, we’re just going to continue with who we’ve got. We’re comfortable with Cody [Kessler] and obviously get Clayton [Thorson] more work,” Pederson said. “Because this is not season-ending, it doesn’t change anything.”
Why not sign Colin Kaepernick?
There are a couple of notable quarterbacks who are without a team, including Kaepernick (who hasn’t played since 2016), and former Eagles starter Sam Bradford. Brock Osweiler, Josh Johnson and Josh McCown (retired) are also names worth considering.
Kaepernick even made a statement this week that he is continuing to pursue an NFL job.
If Sudfeld’s recovery timeline ends up being longer than expected or there is another QB injury, the Eagles will be forced to take action. But the process of starting from scratch with a quarterback at this stage of the season and getting him up to speed in Pederson’s system might not be worth it given the circumstances.
Can Kessler handle the role?
That is the $64,000 question. Kessler has been up and down during training camp and he lacks ideal arm strength. He was 3-of-6 for 12 yards in limited action against the Titans on Thursday.
What he does have is experience. The 2016 third-round pick out of USC has started 12 NFL games — eight as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, when injuries forced him into action, and four last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Sudfeld, in comparison, has only played 25 career snaps.) Kessler completed 64% of his throws with eight touchdowns and five interceptions over that time.
He joined the Eagles in May after being released by the Jaguars, and has been busy learning the Eagles’ playbook ever since.
“You see injuries happen all the time. You wish you didn’t but that’s part of it,” Kessler said. “Obviously, I’ve got to take that next step fast with this offense.”
How does the Sudfeld injury affect Wentz?
First, it’s a reminder that injuries can strike any position at any time. The most important thing is to get Wentz to the starting line healthy following significant injuries of his own in back-to-back-seasons.
Unlike the past two years, Wentz is operating without a safety net. There’s likely to be a significant drop-off at the position for the Eagles if Wentz does get hurt early on.
Wentz wasn’t going to play a ton this preseason anyway, but the Eagles might now lean toward limiting his preseason play even more to keep him in a controlled environment.
“I have to evaluate these guys in the next couple weeks and see if they need to play in some of these games and make decisions that way. You’ve got to be smart with it,” Pederson said. “You’ve got to give them enough work. They’re getting great work in practice, which has been very pleasing to me, and we’re going to continue down that path.”