- - Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Here’s what Washington Redskins fans can expect to see Thursday night in the team’s first preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“The first two games are what they are – a chance to get our veteran guys and our starters a couple of reps, work up a sweat,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters. “Then it’s a chance for some of our young guys to push into the starting role or the backup role.”

Here is also what Thursday night represents: The likely beginning of the Nate Sudfeld era.

That’s far more significant than watching starters get a few reps or working up a sweat. If the rookie quarterback sees action as expected, it will be the first time Redskins fans will get a look at the quarterback that general manager Scot McCloughan – and Gruden — drafted.

They didn’t draft Kirk Cousins. They didn’t draft Colt McCoy.

General managers, they tend to really like players they draft. And of those players, their favorite players to draft are quarterbacks – even one picked in the sixth round out of Indiana that was hardly a household name coming out of college.

Gruden likes Sudfeld. He told the quarterback so when he contacted him before the Redskins made the pick.

“Coach Gruden gave me the call that they were picking me, said they were thrilled to have me,” Sudfeld, who threw for a school record 7,879 yards and 61 touchdowns during his career at Indiana, told the Indianapolis Star in May. “He loves my upside, said that I can make all the throws, that I’m more athletic than people give me credit for.”

Gruden also told ESPN.com in May about how much he likes the quarterback they picked.

“I’m excited about him, man,” Gruden said. “He’s very accurate with the football. He’s made all the throws. I really like the fact that he has great anticipation in the pocket. He anticipates throws, gets it out [of] his hands. He can speed up his delivery when he has to. And he buys time. He’s very functional in the pocket for a big man as far as buying time in the pocket. I think he has a great upside and we’re excited to have him.”

McCloughan also told ESPN.com in May he was impressed with the quarterback he drafted.

“Just the maturity and taking a team that’s kind of average to better — nothing against Indiana, if anybody went there — but he made them better,” McCloughan said. “Just to see his development and knowing that we have Jay [Gruden], we have Sean [McVay] and we have Matt [Cavanaugh], they’re all three in my opinion really great quarterback coaches. We have got to develop. It’s nothing against Kirk [Cousins] and nothing against Colt [McCoy], but we have to develop young guys at any position. But I feel really positive about those guys.”

Maturity. Great upside. These are terms that general managers and coaches like to throw out for players they have a vision about – a dream, maybe, more accurately. They are not terms that are typically thrown out for sixth-round quarterbacks; unless that vision, that dream, is of Sudfeld being the starting quarterback someday for the Washington Redskins.

Ridiculous? Sudfeld hasn’t shown much upside so far in training camp. He threw three picks in four passes during one two-minute drill.

But let’s revisit the Cousins long-term contract talks and what McCloughan told SiriusXM Bleacher Report radio last month.

“The quarterback position’s very, very important, but you know what, so is every other position,” McCloughan said. “We need football players. We need multiple football players, not one.

“The way I look at it is I want Kirk in a long-term deal, no doubt about it, but also I’m not going to put our franchise in a situation where we’re going to lose three or four younger guys that I think are going to be good football players for one guy,” McCloughan said. “I won’t do it. You know, that’s just how it is.”

The speculation coming out of those comments — following the team’s low-ball long-term offer to Cousins of $24 million guaranteed – is that McCloughan believes he can develop a quarterback that will be a cheaper option, allowing the general manager to pay “multiple football players.” If Cousins continues to play as he did last year — earning him the $20 million franchise tag this season — he won’t be the quarterback that allows McCloughan to pay those “multiple football players.”

Right now, that quarterback appears to be Sudfeld. He is expected to make his debut Thursday night.

• Download Thom Loverro’s podcast, Cigars & Curveballs, from iTunes.

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