QB Battle: Matt Barkley
With the preseason officially beginning, it’s time to get into what will be the biggest story of the Eagles’ preseason:
DeSean’s “Diamonds on my Neck” the quarterback competition.
Today we’ll primarily talk Matt Barkley, but first let’s begin by discussing the odds of Dennis Dixon and GJ Kinne making the team.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
Barkley was the top recruit in the country coming out of high school and stayed in his native California to work under Pete Carroll. The move was a good one as Barkley started for the Trojans as a true freshman and led the team to a 9-4 record with a bowl appearance. Thing were looking up…and then the school was heavily punished after Carroll’s departure for Seattle (the full details are here).
Despite the sanctions, the Trojans posted a 18-7 record over the next two seasons and Barkley was primed to be a top five pick in the 2012 draft. Instead of getting his pay day a year early, Barkley opted to complete his college career—a mistake which cost him millions of dollars.
With USC truly feeling the brunt of the NCAA sanctions, the team went 7-6 in 2012 and Barkley lost his golden aura.
For reference, here are Barkley’s career numbers from USC:
Looking at the table you can see that Barkley dropped in passing efficiency and more than doubled his interceptions from his third to fourth season.
So his stock didn’t just take a hit from staying—it crumbled. Instead of going in the top five like he was projected to a year earlier, Barkley was taken with the 98th overall pick (fourth round) in the draft by the Eagles.
In many circles, the Eagles’ selection has been considered a “value pick” and has some believing that Barkley is Chip Kelly’s quarterback for the future.
So is it possible that he starts for the Eagles this year? Let’s start by taking a look at his measurables.
Weight: 227 lbs.
Hand Size: 10 1/8 in.
The biggest issue for Barkley physically comes down to his height. At 6’2″ Barkley doesn’t have “ideal size”, but he’s more than capable. Matt Stafford, for example, is 6’2″ and Mike Vick is six feet flat.
However, where he has an advantage is hand size. In fact, he has the third largest hands out of all QBs in the 2013 draft. This is certainly an indicator of why Kelly selected Barkley in the first place. Just consider this quote from Kelly himself:
“If the quarterback is not tall, look at his hands. That is the biggest coaching point to finding a quarterback. How big are his hands, and how well can he control the football? The height of the quarterback is not the important thing. No one playing quarterback throws over the line. They throw through lanes in the lineman. The important thing is the size of his hands.” – Chip Kelly
So on the surface, Barkley doesn’t have any true disadvantages, which is why he is considered a viable option to start.
Another check on Barkley’s side is that he’s an accurate passer in the short game. Just check out this highlight video from below. You’ll notice that Barkley has a knack for ball placement as he regularly hits his receivers in stride and does a good job connecting on the fade route. For an offense based on precision, that’s a huge plus.
The issue though, is that his lack of arm strength is very noticeable. For example, check out the pass he throws at the 0:16 mark. It’s the kind of rainbow that this guy goes nuts over—as does Troy Polamalu.
While strength is not damning either, it absolutely hurts his stock for this season and I think that it ultimately plays a big part in why he’s out of the competition for this year.
For young QBs, strength is a way to overcome some of your poor judgement as you adjust to the game. One way being that it’s harder for linebackers to undercut risky throws in time when you throw across the middle. If you don’t have the arm strength, those types of plays turn into turnovers and Chip Kelly HATES turnovers.
For this reason, Barkley likely sits this year on the bench so that he can develop. Sure, he may have been viewed as a first round talent in 2012, but the reality is he was a fourth round pick—NFL teams decided to take 97 other players before him. There’s no reason to rush him onto the field and ruin his confidence when he can simply sit the year out, adjust to the speed of the game, and get stronger.
As a result, the competition will come down to Vick and Foles, who I’ll get to in the next few days.
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