The Philadelphia Eagles‘ Matt Barkley averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt (YPA), zero touchdowns, and four interceptions in a handful of rookie appearances last season. Barkley’s impressive college resume suggests that he is better than this small sample indicates, and it is doubtful that the Eagles have soured on his skill set less than one year after moving up to take him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. One bad year coming off shoulder surgery can be overlooked, but two bad years often push mid to late round picks out of the league. Barkley deserves the opportunity to seize the Eagles’ backup quarterback job in what will be a make-or-break upcoming season for the 23-year-old Newport Beach, CA native.
Based on how Nick Foles progressed during his second season, Matt Barkley will benefit greatly from a full offseason working with Chip Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff. As a four-year starter at the college level, Barkley showed steady improvement through his junior year, which culminated in a truly prolific statistical season when he completed 69 percent of his passes for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions for the University of Southern California. That year, he compiled more yards and touchdowns than Stanford University‘s Andrew Luck.
Barkley’s outstanding junior year had only one flaw: of the top-20 rated college passers, he was the only QB with a sub-8.0 YPA (7.9). Moreover, this lackluster average came while throwing the ball to a premier vertical threat on one side of the field in Marqise Lee, and a premier route route runner on the other side of the field in Robert Woods. Barkley’s low YPA, despite NFL-caliber weaponry on the outside, helped fuel unfortunate comparisons to Matt Leinart.
The Leinart comparisons have since been been dismissed by numerous NFL scouts who confirmed that he has the necessary arm strength to make all of the throws that the position demands. He is also particularly adept at throwing on the run, drawing comparisons to Matt Hasselbeck. As this headline photo shows, the one legitimate criticism of Barkley is that he lacks ideal NFL height for a pocket passers. This is largely offset, however, by his accuracy from inside the pocket as well as on the move.
Philadelphia’s organizational philosophy revolves around stockpiling high-impact players at high-impact positions. In particularly, never passing up talent at the truly game-changing positions such as quarterback. Fortunately, Matt Barkley’s presence allows the team to be conservative with any future investments at the quarterback position. If a developmental QB that the team covets falls into rounds 6-7, the team should pounce. If a quality free agent QB falls through the cracks, the team should sign him as insurance. But the Eagles should not actively seek to invest an early to middle round draft pick or spend a significant amount in free agency on a quarterback to compete head-to-head with Barkley.
It’s impossible to know whether Matt Barkley will establish himself as one of the league’s stronger backup quarterbacks, but he is the classic low ceiling, low floor QB that profiles as a rock-steady NFL backup in the making. He has the skills and accolades that demand an organization’s commitment, for at least one season, without having to look over his shoulder.