The Redskins sixth-round pick from Indiana remained inactive for the entire season, but leaned on Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and the coaching staff to help refine his game.
Considering the rapid pace at which rookie quarterbacks have been inserted as their team's starters over the last several years, it would be easy to dismiss quarterback Nate Sudfeld's first year in the league as unproductive.
The Redskins' sixth-round pick from Indiana remained inactive for the entire regular season, a designation he never complained about as he learned the nuances of the position from quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. Regardless of his status on gamedays, however, Sudfeld made his first year in the NFL as productive as possible.
"I really tried to treat each week as though I were starting," Sudfeld said following the team's season-ending loss to the Giants. "So I prepared as hard as I could. Made sure I knew what our protection plans were, what our third down thoughts were, what our red zone thoughts were, so they did a good job keeping me in meetings so I always had to be on top of my game, Coach [Sean] McVay and Coach [Matt] Cavanaugh would quiz me on just random stuff so that really helped. I really feel like as the season progressed I got better and better at it. I'm really excited about the progress I made and put it on display this offseason and OTAs."
Sudfeld did have a small body of work to claim during the preseason, where he played in three games and recorded a touchdown pass in each contest. His best performance came against the Falcons, where Sudfeld completed 10-of-15 passes for 89 yards and a score, making a nice impression in his first official NFL game experience.
In total, he finished the preseason completing 52.8 percent of his passes for 238 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. During the season, Sudfeld was less active in seeking feedback from Cavanaugh, who was named the team's new offensive coordinator on Monday, and McVay, knowing they had bigger things to worry about, but knows he made some impactful strides in his game.
"[Cavanugh] just encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing," Sudfeld said. "I don't think there was anything glaring you need to fix this to do better. He was like, you're young, you're still developing, you're a young guy, just keep doing what you're doing, you'll be alright. I just kind of tried to keep pushing, be around him as much as possible, soak up as much as I could, but for the most part it was pretty positive."
It also helped that Sudfeld's locker was located in the same corner as Cousins and McCoy, but also left tackle Trent Williams, the blindside protector of those three and obvious fountain of wisdom for young players looking to learn each day.
"They were all very instrumental in my development this year, just learning how Kirk and Colt are always working, they know how to do everything the right way," Sudfeld said. "They interact with guys really well and they prepare for each game in practice. So it was really good to learn that and then Trent is obviously one of the best in the game, too. So, being around all those guys I definitely took notes every day on things that I saw that I really appreciated they did or liked that they did that I tried to implement or what I could do."
The starting quarterback situation for the Redskins stands as unpredictable right now, with Cousins an unrestricted free agent. But any kinds of distractions or possibilities that might engulf a rookie's season – including the mere length of the year that causes many to mentally check out – never got to Sudfeld.
He leaned on his brother, Zach, a tight end, who last played with the Jets this preseason, to prepare him for what the NFL would be like. The preparation allowed him to stay in the moment and not worry about the road ahead.
"I think there's rookies that just look ahead and think hey, we got nine more weeks," Sudfeld said. "I just kept going "What do I have to do today to get better?" "What do I have to do in practice to get better?" It's kind of cliché to say one day at a time, but it's something that I really wanted to do. I think it really helped me to where I feel pretty energized and brought energy every day."