Why Nate Sudfeld is the ‘perfect’ backup for Lions QB Jared Goff

Detroit News

Allen Park — From Ben Johnson to Brad Holmes, the Detroit Lions haven’t been shy to acknowledge that last year’s backup quarterback situation was disappointing to start the season.

The team desperately awaited either Tim Boyle or David Blough, both who had gotten starts in previous years, to take the reins. Neither did.

But now, with two rookie quarterbacks and an experienced backup in Nate Sudfeld, Lions quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell said his room is in perfect order.

“I love where we’re at. I absolutely love where we’re at,” Brunell said this offseason. “I like all the guys. I love my room.”

If everything goes according to plan, Jared Goff will be the only quarterback taking snaps for the Lions in 2023. Most NFL teams feel that way heading into a season — at least ones who plan to contend for a deep run into the postseason — and the reality is, the value of having a guy who can win a game on short notice is immense. Johnson said as much back at the NFL Combine, which leads one to believe the team feels Sudfeld is a guy who can do that.

Brunell was impressed with the work Sudfeld put in during the offseason program, after not getting the chance to participate with the team in 2022.

“He has gotten better as the spring has gone on. He has made some very good throws, very good decisions with the ball,” Brunell said. “And that’s the thing I’ve been most pleased with Nate is, just with the growth, even in the offseason. He’s a smart kid, he’s a hard worker, he knows our system and he’s done very well for us.”

But even if the Lions’ wildest dreams come true and Goff doesn’t miss a snap next year, Sudfeld remains the perfect backup, Brunell said, because of the way he supports the starter.

“He was perfect. I talked about the preparation and being ready to go if called up, the time that he put in,” Brunell said. “He was great leading up to our games, as far as working with Jared and watching tape together. And then on game day, he was excellent. And it’s very important for a starter to have a resource on the sidelines, in the meeting room, a backup guy that really just wants to help Jared be the best he can be.

“That’s not always the case in quarterback rooms. But in our room, it really makes all the difference in the world. And I think if you’d ask Jared, he’d tell you the same thing and how much he leaned on Nate over the course of the season. I think it really helped our quarterback.”

Sudfeld, who played four seasons at Indiana (2012-15), has ample experience as a backup in the NFL, first as a third-stringer for Washington, where he was a sixth-round draft pick in 2016. He then signed to Philadelphia’s practice squad in 2017, was called on as the backup to Nick Foles during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run, and stayed in Philadelphia until 2020. He played a minor backup role with the 49ers in 2021 before landing in Detroit at the beginning of last season.

Brunell said Sudfeld is like “another set of eyes on the sideline.”

“Just staying in there, watching what the defense was doing, having the conversation after every series as to what their game plan is and making the adjustments,” Brunell said. “And the great thing about Nate is he really wants his opportunity, he wants to play. He’s hungry to get out there and show what he can do. And that’s the mindset a backup quarterback should have.

“You should have a guy that wants to get in there — certainly not at the expense of Jared or the team. I think his opportunity will come at some point, but he’s just done very well for us in a supporting role.”

nbianchi@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @nolanbianchi

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