The Eagles’ quarterback room has gone through a lot of changes since the first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, after likely backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist with just 26 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Eagles’ other two backups, Cody Kessler and 2019 fifth-round pick Clayton Thorson, combined to go 5-of-15 for 19 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
Sudfeld is reported to be out six to eight weeks.
It looked worse at the start of the Jacksonville Jaguars game the next week when, during the Eagles’ first drive, Kessler was knocked out of the game on a wicked hit by Titans defensive end Datone Jones. He was put into concussion protocol right away.
Most fans thought it was going to be a disaster of a preseason game when Thorson entered the contest as the only quarterback left who could play. The former Northwestern star had gone 2-of-9 for seven yards and an interception the week before.
But the 6-foot-4, 222-pounder got off the mat to go 16-for-26 for 175 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward and a tipped-ball interception to lead the Birds to a 24-10 win over the Jags on a warm, cloudy evening in northern Florida.
The gaggles he had with reporters the week after the Titans game and following training camp practices must have felt like he was a spider having his legs pulled off one at a time.
But not Thursday night.
Thorson was asked if it made it any earlier knowing at the half he was going to play the entire game?
“I don’t know about that,” Thorson said with a laugh at his locker after the game. “It definitely makes it more interesting. I just try and stay ready and get out there and play.”
After the game, coach Doug Pederson talked about Thorson’s performance.
“He really just calmed himself, learned from last week, which is great to see,” Pederson said. “He steadied himself. I know the feeling coming off the bench like that, as a backup guy. He stepped in there and did a great job. Great job leading the team and managing the team. He made some big-time throws. It was encouraging to see him.”
Thorson said he was indeed much more relaxed with an NFL game under his belt.
“I knew what to expect,” Thorson said. “Last week was my first NFL game, I was excited to go. Coming out here, I knew what to expect, and I was better prepared this week.”
Thorson said he just relaxed and played ball.
“I just focused on going through my reads,” Thorson said. “We’ve got a great offense. I tell you what, we’ve got a lot of (talented) guys, a lot of different guys caught balls out there tonight. I just went with my reads and got the ball out on time.”
It is a competition for a job, and one solid performance in a preseason game guarantees Thorson, or Kessler, nothing. The Eagles’ roster moves over the weekend proved that.
The Eagles announced Saturday that they signed 40-year-old quarterback Josh McCown to a one-year guaranteed contact. The Eagles said McCown is here for the season, making an already crowded quarterback room even more jammed.
At first, all Pederson would say is the injuries prompted the move. Then he opened the door to the move being about insurance and sleeping better at night knowing he had a dependable veteran around.
“Obviously, you know our situation at quarterback right now,” he said. “We have a couple guys right now that are banged up. It kind of falls in line with not only the injury situation, but also the fact that when we have an opportunity to add a little value, depth and competition to that spot, a veteran guy who has been around the league – and I have said this all along, the quarterback position is not immune to any of this. That’s why we did it. We’re excited to get him in here, get him caught up, and see what he can do.”
Rookie free agent offensive lineman stands out
Backup offensive lineman Nate Herbig saw his stock rise a little after he played the entire second half in Jacksonville.
The Birds scored 17 points while the rookie free agent out of Stanford was in there.
“My number got called, it was my second game ever playing center, so I just had to make the most of my opportunity and glad that I could help my team get a win.” the 6-4, 334-pounder said.
With 9:02 left in the fourth quarter, the Birds led 17-10. Pederson decided to let the backup o-line take over, and they did not disappoint. Thorson handed the ball off on eight plays, the Eagles drove 75 yards to add a touchdown.
After a three-and-out by Jacksonville, the Birds ran the ball five more times before Thorson took a knee three times to end the game.
“It’s a lot of fun any time you can take the ball in the fourth quarter and demoralize a defense,” Herbig said with a grin. “It’s my favorite thing to do. It’s what I loved to do when I was at Stanford and I got a chance to do it here, in this fourth quarter. It was a great time, I love football, I love this team and I’ll do whatever I can to help them win.”
Who says the preseason isn’t fun? ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii