While Michael Vick and Nick Foles have received the bulk of first team reps in practice, the Eagles are very high on Matt Barkley. The USC product is more than your average fourth round rookie. The Eagles had him rated as a top 50 player in the draft and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has been impressed with his development. In an age when most college quarterbacks are deemed raw by scouts due largely to the spread offenses they play in, Barkley stands out as a pro-ready prospect. According to Shurmur, Barkley “did all the things playing quarterback that you need to see at [the NFL] level.” This is a potential indication that the Eagles are willing to give Barkley a shot at the starting job.
While fans should be encouraged by what Barkley has shown so far, they should not expect him to emerge as a serious threat to Vick or Foles for the starting job. Chip Kelly is all about competition, and if Barkley were truly competing for the number one gig, he would be getting more reps in practice. Benching Michael Vick in favor of a rookie might trigger a mutiny in the locker room, and playing Barkley over Foles would even be a tough sell to a fan base that still largely believes in Foles’ long-term potential.
Count Barkley out of the 2013 QB competition, but look for him to be a factor down the road. He is the only potential franchise quarterback on the roster and will get his crack at the starting job before long. Michael Vick is an average starter at best and only has a few years left in the tank, and Foles is likely to fall by the wayside in Chip Kelly’s system. Kelly has not shown much faith in Foles by re-signing Vick and drafting Barkley, and it’s easy to see why Foles is not a fit in an up-tempo offense. He is not only a slow runner, but a slow decision maker and very robotic and calculated in the pocket. He’s a west coast passer who loves to check the ball down, and will struggle in a system that demands both speed of foot and of mind.
Barkley is already an advanced decision maker who can throw on the run and move within the pocket. He has top notch intangibles and carries himself like a leader. Once he has a season or two to earn the respect of his teammates, he could take off as Vick’s successor. There’s a lot to be optimistic about with Barkley, but keep in mind that he fell to the fourth round for a reason. The biggest misconception about his game is that he is an accurate passer. He isn’t. In fact, his accuracy is a much bigger concern than his arm strength (which he has plenty of). Many times, when fans and scouts see a successful pocket passer with less than a rocket arm, they automatically assume accuracy is a strength. Barkley has struggled with ball placement on easy throws like screens and slant passes in college. Vick and Foles both have more pure arm talent than Barkley. It’s decision making, work ethic, and leadership that set Barkley apart. While the Eagles players still want to go to battle with Vick more than anyone else, when the time comes, Barkley has the makings of a player who can control the culture of a team.