The Philadelphia Eagles have a quarterback problem. Nate Sudfeld, the team’s No. 2 quarterback and 2019 backup to Carson Wentz, broke his left wrist in the Eagles’ preseason opener Thursday night and will have surgery Friday. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Sudfeld is expected to return from the injury in six weeks.
Head coach Doug Pederson said the surgery isn’t season ending, but the Eagles will need to add an extra quarterback to their roster as veteran insurance for Carson Wentz.
Pederson downplayed the notion that the Eagles will need an extra quarterback, choosing to evaluate the players that have been in the Eagles’ system all offseason.
“We don’t play the Washington Redskins for a few more weeks so the goal is to get ready for that, “Pederson said after the team’s preseason opener on Thursday. “But I have to evaluate these guys in the next couple of weeks and see if they need to play in some of these games and make decisions that way. You have to be smart with it and give them enough work. They are getting great work in practice, which has been very pleasing to me and we are going to continue down that path.”
Pederson even joked he could come out of retirement and fill in at quarterback. While Pederson isn’t a realistic option, the Eagles will have their pickings on which players they could go after over the next several days.
The Eagles are going to give Kessler the opportunity to win the backup quarterback job. Is Kessler the best option? That remains to be seen based on how he performs over the next several weeks. Kessler’s first impression in an Eagles uniform didn’t help his case as he finished 3 of 6 for 12 yards with a 56.2 passer rating.
Kessler wasn’t asked to do much with the Jacksonville Jaguars last season, but the advanced stats showed he was accurate on the passes that were thrown 0-to-9 yards. Per Pro Football Focus, Kessler finished fifth in the league in passes that went 0-to-9 yards at 72.3 percent (that measures the away from coverage designation by PFF). Kessler went 73 for 89 on passes that went 0-to-9 yards for 516 yards, with one touchdown and one interception for an 89.9 passer rating. Kessler has just one touchdown and one interception on passes that went 10-plus yards, going 12 for 31 for 193 yards, finishing with a 57.8 passer rating.
What may separate Kessler from the pack is he has started games in the NFL and is still a quarterback the Eagles can develop.
“He’s a veteran guy. He’s started games in the National Football League,” Pederson said. “He’s shown us he’s been able to hand the playbook and incrementally getting better every day. He gets out there and takes reps. Looking forward, we’re not there yet, but he’s been in that role before, so he’s accustomed to being a backup if that’s the case. But right now, we’re focused on these next few days and getting ready for Saturday.”
The Eagles drafted Thorson in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but the rookie quarterback is far from ready to be the backup quarterback to Wentz this season. Thorson went 2 of 9 for seven yards passing and one interception for a 0.0 passer rating in his preseason debut. In the process, Thorson misfired on wide-open receivers and sailed deep throws across the middle of the field.
Thorson may not even make the roster as the No. 3 quarterback as he has struggled throughout training camp with his throws and ability to find open receivers. That’s a problem for the Eagles going forward.
“It’s just nerves and calming down and playing in these games,” Pederson said. “He’ll get better and he’ll get more reps now and this will be a great experience for him to watch this tape and learn from.”
Of the very limited free-agent options available, Johnson is the most qualified candidate. Johnson actually had stints with 12 different NFL teams in his career, which started as a fifth-round pick in 2009. Having not played in an NFL game for four years, Johnson was signed by the Washington Redskins in December and ended up finishing out the season due to a slew of injuries at the quarterback position.
In four games with the Redskins, Johnson completed 57.1 percent of his passes for 590 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions for a 69.4 passer rating. He also rushed for 120 yards and one touchdown.
The veteran quarterback turned down a deal from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason because he felt it wasn’t the right situation. Perhaps competing for the backup quarterback job in Philadelphia would entice Johnson.
Osweiler is still on the free-agent market in August, with no teams picking up the former Denver Broncos second-round pick this offseason. Osweiler has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 7,418 yards, 34 touchdowns, 31 interceptions and a 78.0 passer rating (stints with Denver, the Houston Texans, and the Miami Dolphins). In Osweiler’s lone season as a full-time starting quarterback, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,957 yards, 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions (72.2 passer rating).
Osweiler was serviceable in 2017 and 2018 as a No. 2 quarterback for the Broncos and Dolphins, completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,247 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions in five starts.
Is Osweiler the best option right now? Entering his age-28 season, Osweiler is still a quarterback the Eagles can develop and he could compete with Kessler for the No. 2 job. He has a stronger arm than Kessler and can extend plays downfield, despite his troubles facing pressure.
Jones, who recently turned 30, has a 3-2 career record as an NFL starting quarterback. In 19 games, he’s completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 1,310 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions and a 68.2 passer rating. Jones went 23 of 28 for 239 yards with a touchdown and an interception and a 99.3 passer rating in limited action for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2017 season, the last time he played in an NFL game.
Jones has since had brief stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, being released by Oakland in May in favor of Nate Peterman. While Jones has NFL starting experience, he may be a “Plan B” option for Philadelphia at this point.
New York Jets have shown in the past they are willing to trade quarterbacks they signed that offseason (see Teddy Bridgewater, albeit the regime as changed). Doesn’t hurt new Jets general manager Joe Douglas spent the past three seasons working with Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.for the Eagles, as the
Siemian is 13-11 as a starter, completing 59.3 percent of his passes for 5,686 yards and 30 touchdowns, 24 interceptions and a 79.9 passer rating. Those numbers are more than adequate for a backup quarterback in the NFL that knows the basis of Pederson’s system.
Bringing in Siemian wouldn’t hurt the Eagles either, especially since he spent the 2018 season with the Minnesota Vikings and John DeFilippo. Siemian knows some of the concepts of Pederson’s system, which DeFilippo brought variations of to Minnesota before he was fired.
How could the Eagles trade for Fitzpatrick when he’s battling for a starting job with the Miami Dolphins? The Dolphins should see what they have with Josh Rosen in 2019 as they are in the initial stages of their rebuild, not going forward with the 36-year old Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick completed 164-of-246 passes for 2,366 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2018. In his 11-year career, Fitzpatrick completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 29,357 yards, 190 touchdowns and 148 interceptions for an 81.1 passer rating. That’s the veteran backup quarterback the Eagles could easily make their No. 2 while Sudfeld is out.
Doesn’t hurt Fitzpatrick already has good chemistry with one of the Eagles current wide receivers: DeSean Jackson. The results showed Jackson favored Fitzpatrick in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just look at the numbers. Jackson had 27 catches for 552 yards (20.4 yards per catch) when Fitzpatrick was his quarterback and 14 catches for 222 yards (15.9 yards per catch) with Jameis Winston as the quarterback.
The Eagles may not miss a beat with Fitzpatrick as Wentz’s backup, especially since they can provide Fitzpatrick with a clean pocket (121 of 172 for 1,824 yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 110.2 with a clean pocket). The price may be a mid-round pick, but it’s a price to pay since the backup quarterback position is a high priority in Philadelphia.