There has been a lot said about Cody Kessler and his unlikely arrival in Philadelphia. Initially, the veteran was signed to push rookie Clayton Thorson in training camp and maybe even snake a roster spot. A lot has changed over the past four days.
Kessler now finds himself as the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart following Nate Sudfeld’s injury. Where is he from? How did he get here? Well, the fourth-year quarterback is from Bakersfield, California. He got here after a riveting 30-minute phone call with none other than Nick Foles.
“It was a 20-30 minute phone call,” Kessler told reporters in May, via NJ Advance Media. “He told me about some of the stuff he went through in his past experiences. [He said] ‘It’s going to suck now but there’s going to be brighter times ahead, you’ve got to believe that and you’ve got to stick to that.’”
Kessler spent one year in Jacksonville and started four games for an ineffective Blake Bortles. When the Jaguars signed Foles last March to that four-year, $88 million deal, Kessler became expendable. Then Foles picked up the phone and the rest is history. Or something like that.
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Cody Kessler’s Rough Start in Cleveland
It all goes back to Hue Jackson. It always does, right? The former Cleveland Browns head coach went against conventional (and possibly unconventional) wisdom when he used a third-round pick on Cody Kessler in 2016.
The Browns had the No. 2 pick in the draft and were in prime position to take either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Instead, the team dealt the pick to Philadelphia and they used it on Wentz. Jackson traded down again later in the draft after passing on Paxton Lynch. Kessler went 93rd overall.
“You have to trust me on this one,” Jackson told The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot.
Trust the Process. Kessler lasted two years in Cleveland and posted an 0-8 record in eight starts. However, the stop-gap for eventual franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield did throw for 1,506 yards and six touchdowns against three interceptions. It could have gone a lot worse, although he clearly wasn’t the answer the team was looking for at the time. Jackson was finally fired in 2018, never be trusted on anything ever again.
Most Accurate Short Passer in the NFL
Cody Kessler’s hallmark has always been his accuracy on short passes, or those balls traveling less than 10 yards in distance. It’s not the most flashy stat, but it is one that has kept the quarterback gainfully employed in the NFL. Kessler was the fifth-most accurate signal-caller in 2018 on throws in between zero and nine yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
That pinpoint accuracy was something specifically referenced by Hue Jackson as a reason for drafting him in 2016. He left college — Kessler was a three-year starter at USC — as the school’s all-time most accurate passer with a 67.5 completion percentage and 1.51 interception rate. He has also been one of the best quarterbacks at protecting the football throughout his career.
“Accuracy (is what I’m looking for),” Jackson told The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot. “He has pinpoint accuracy. He can throw the ball straight to the guy he’s throwing it to, and if you can’t, you can’t play in the NFL.”
Scouting Nate Sudfeld & Cody Kessler
Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler both entered the 2016 NFL Draft, with slightly different expectations. Kessler was more a victim of fate as most experts had the USC quarterback pegged as a late-round pick, but went 93rd overall and soon found himself starting in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, Sudfeld wasn’t supposed to go high and never did after the Redskins took the Indiana product in the sixth round (187th overall). Interestingly enough, both quarterbacks were labeled projects that needed a solid offensive line and weapons all around them to make any kind of impact.
Sudfeld, per USA Today’s Draft Wire:
If you took Sudfeld’s 10 best throws and showed them to NFL scouts, they’d probably start figuring out how to trade up for him. Unfortunately those passes are the exception rather than the rule, as Sudfeld struggles to generate consistent velocity and accuracy from the pocket. If you put him behind an excellent offensive line, Sudfeld can make some things happen down the field, but leak pressure at all, and the Indiana quarterback becomes a mess. He’s got to get better cerebrally before he’s ready to play in the NFL, but Sudfeld has enough in the toolbox to consider developing with a late round pick.
Kessler, per USA Today’s Draft Wire:
Kessler’s deficiencies are glaring and will handcuff an offense considerably as a featured passer. Kessler’s smarts, work ethic, mobility, toughness, experience, and efficiency as a player are all vital traits that he can bring to the next level, but none can make up for the physical limitations that put a low ceiling on his development. I think Kessler will be a solid backup and could even be a spot starter in the NFL, but he’ll need to be in a high-octane offense with plenty of legitimate threats around him to ever be considered more than that.
Those two scouting reports sound about right and still check out today. It’ll be up to the Eagles highly-talented coaching staff to work out the kinks and turn them both into viable backups behind starter Carson Wentz.