Preseason games can be terribly boring, especially when quarterbacks are gripping tight to their third spot on the depth chart and refuse to take risks. That can not be said for Nate Sudfeld, who let it rip in week 2 after suffering from up-and-down play against the Pittsburgh Steelers the week before.
In fact, no other quarterback is letting his hair down more than Sudfeld this preseason. Not only that, no quarterback has been more accurate down the field than Sudfeld. According to Pro Football Focus, only Steelers’ quarterback Joshua Dobbs has as many throws of 20+ yards (10) in the first two weeks. Sudfeld leads all quarterbacks with at least five downfield shots with a 70% accuracy rating (6 completions, 1 drop) and a bonkers 143.8 QB Rating.
Nate Sudfeld: Every 20+ Air Yards Throw..— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) August 19, 2018
This dude can drop it in the bucket, catches towards the end - pic.twitter.com/MJfAXMGQYt
There’s a difference between accuracy and placement, but Sudfeld checked both boxes. His throws downfield have had excellent touch when necessary and he’s shown a fantastic ability to put it where only the receiver has a shot to make the catch. This placement has made life easier for his targets and has resulted in 222 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.
What makes this such a pleasant surprise is that Sudfeld, up to this point, hasn’t been known as an air it out type of slinger. Last year in week 17 action against the Dallas Cowboys, only 1 of his 23 attempts went for over 20 yards in the air. While he received good reviews for his performance in that game considering the circumstances, he didn’t show the confidence to push the ball downfield. That’s not to say he didn’t have the arm to hit the deep shot though, as Mark Schofield of Inside the Pylon points out.
“He has the arm strength to make throws to every level of the field, and can challenge narrow throwing windows at the intermediate level... displays the ability to stretch the football from sideline to sideline, and the arm strength to throw the deep out from one hash mark to the other sideline.”
From the same scouting report, Schofield notes the lack of placement from Sudfeld while at Indiana. That’s what makes this preseason performance so encouraging.
“Sudfeld struggles with accuracy on throws to each level of the field. Even some of his more impressive plays were throws that could have been put in a better spot for the receiver.”
Schofield goes on to note that his best scheme fit would be a vertical passing attack, which is exciting considering most third string quarterbacks either have noodle arms or are light-years away from mentally handling the intricacies of the game. Given the praise the coaching staff has heaped on Sudfeld, it’s hard to believe that he doesn’t have a firm grasp on the playbook.
It’s of note that Sudfeld struggles to process in the short-to-intermediate areas. There’s a difference between identifying single-high safety and letting it fly as opposed to running through three quick progressions and throwing a laser before the window closes. That’s not to say Sudfeld’s success is strictly predicated on favorable coverage; there are times where he is able to extend plays with his feet and his eyes. It’s just a note to say his game is not a complete package quite yet.
It’s exciting to have a big, strong-armed quarterback that is more than just a guy that “looks like a quarterback”, as we hear so often during the draft process. It’s a positive sign that Sudfeld has taken strong steps forward in his development during his short time with the Eagles, while the Washington Redskins seemed to have completely botched their evaluation.
What the future holds for him is unclear, but for the short term, as long as Sudfeld continues to keep these exhibitions exciting, I’ll be a fan. We need a way to evaluate these wide receivers as deep threats and he’s giving them plenty of opportunities to shine. The same couldn’t be said for Matt McGloin.