Since the day he accepted the job as Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Chip Kelly has asserted that it is an open competition for the team’s starting quarterback job.
If fans and observers of this team did not take Kelly at his word in January, all assuredly took notice after the Eagles moved up in the fourth round to draft USC‘s Matt Barkley. Had Barkley declared for the NFL draft in 2012, in all likelihood he would have been the third quarterback selected in the first round, but the Eagles were able to snag the four-year USC starter in the fourth round last month.
“The fact is that I’m here,” Barkley told reporters Friday during the team’s rookie camp. “And I have a shot to play on the field this year.”
Not that any position battles are won or lost in May, but Barkley’s first NFL practice was an impressive one at the Novacare Complex, Monday.
With incumbents Michael Vick and Nick Foles and free agent singing Dennis Dixon also battling it out for the starting job, it’s a good thing that Kelly’s practices feature a play being run every four seconds and some drills having all four signal callers on the field at the same time.
Entering the draft there were questions abound about Barkley’s arm strength, but even amid the South Philadelphia wind, the 22-year old showed plenty of confidence and ability in throwing the long ball with accuracy. While the rookie could stand to get rid of the football quicker, he clearly out-shined Vick in seven-on-seven drills where the 32-year old chose to scramble with the football several times and on several occasions waited far too long for the plays to develop.
“I thought Matt would be gone much earlier in the draft,” Foles explained afterwards. “I was really excited for this franchise when we picked him. You want competition and Matt did some special things in college.”
Foles, the first rookie quarterback to finish the season with a completion percentage above 60 percent while averaging over 240 yards per game, was the clear standout Monday.
The second-year product out of Arizona‘s quick release was on full display, and he showed no fear of throwing the ball with accuracy into tight windows.
“Nobody’s shown anything yet,” Kelly said, frankly, after practice. “Vick and Foles had exactly a 50/50 split in reps. It’s May 13th, we don’t play the (Washington) Redskins until September 9th.”
Still, Kelly did not rule out naming a rookie his starting quarterback when the regular season finally rolls around.
“Matt Barkley has been great,” Kelly said. “He’s picking up everything we throw at him and he’s been here every morning at 6am working hard. I hope Matt competes for the starting job. As coaches, our job is to put the best players on the field and I hope Matt competes for the starting job.”
After practice, Foles hinted that the quarterback competition could last all the way to September.
Whether it’s Vick, Foles, Barkley or even Dixon under center, one thing is abundantly clear after one open practice: the competition for the team’s starting job is a wide open one.
All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.
Matt Lombardo is also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.