With Wentz and Foles on mend, Nate Sudfeld takes center stage

Nate Sudfeld will start the preseason opener and aim to pick up where he left off in the regular-season finale last year. Matt Rourke/AP Photo

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles have been talking up third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld. On Thursday, Sudfeld will have a chance to show a larger audience why.

Nick Foles is day-to-day with spasms in his neck/trapezius area on his throwing side, and coach Doug Pederson indicated that Carson Wentz will not play in Thursday's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he recovers from a torn ACL and LCL. The heavy lifting, then, will go to Sudfeld, a third-year QB out of the University of Indiana.

With Foles sidelined for the past three practices and Wentz being held out of team drills, Sudfeld has been manning the first team a good bit of late, and has been up and down.

"I think it's great for Nate," Pederson said recently of the amount of reps he's been getting. "A great opportunity for him to really show what he can do, solidify himself in this league as a quarterback, obviously a backup on our roster. But the more time he gets under center, the more experience he's going to gain. These games are going to be valuable for him. He's one of the players I'm excited to watch."

The team brass has been bullish on him publicly, stating their belief that he can develop into a starting-caliber player. Conversations behind the scenes have had the same tone about Sudfeld, who was signed to the team's practice squad before the beginning of last season after being released by the Washington Redskins. He was later promoted to the 53-man roster to keep him from being plucked by the Indianapolis Colts, who were showing interest.

He played in one game last season -- against the Dallas Cowboys in the regular-season finale -- and set a record for highest completion percentage for a QB making his debut by going 19-of-23 for 134 yards. Right before the Super Bowl, former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, now the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, called that outing his proudest moment as a coach that season, even though he helped Wentz and Foles reach incredible heights.

This is an important moment not just for Sudfeld, but the Eagles also as they try to figure out their quarterback situation beyond 2018. Foles can opt out of his recently reworked deal at season's end, meaning the Eagles could be in the market for a new No. 2. It's a job that owner Jeffrey Lurie highly values; we saw why last season, as Foles, the Eagles' backup QB, became the Super Bowl MVP.

Fourth-stringer Joe Callahan out of Wesley College will also get some work Thursday night. These games are an opportunity for players lower on the depth chart to showcase their talents. In terms of evaluating for the future, there won't be a more important person on the field than Sudfeld.

"Just natural progression," said offensive coordinator Mike Groh on what he'd like to see from Sudfeld. "Just go out there and have command in the huddle. I'd really like to see an efficient operation out of him, and everybody."