“Absolutely, I’m going to come in and compete. My mind-set is, I’m starting Day 1,” Barkley said. He was a 4-year starter in high school and college. “Whatever happens, whatever the situation is, that has to be your mind-set.”
Where Barkley fits immediately on the Eagles depth chart is a question that can’t yet be answered. Kelly said he sees no reason not to wage a wide-open competition between Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon and Barkley, but it would appear that Foles, the second-year pro from Arizona, is the guy whose game most resembles Barkley’s, and thus he might be vulnerable to losing his roster spot.
Though Barkley could certainly catch on quickly to the pro game and perhaps even earn the starting job with a strong preseason, in going to the Eagles he has found a close to ideal situation in which he could develop for a year or so before he has to play. Unlike when he started for Pete Carroll as a freshman at USC, Barkley should have time to work on his craft and thoroughly learn Kelly’s offense before the pressure of expectation descends. If there’s an upside to the sting of receiving 97 rejection notices spread out over two days (Barkley was taken 98th), that’s it.
I have to admit, I didn’t see it coming. Barkley’s skill set didn’t seem a fit for the read option offense we all presumed Kelly was bringing to Philadelphia. Barkley — who is now 6-2 and 225 pounds — is a rhythm passer, not a runner. He can slide in the pocket, he can run the bootleg and throw fairly well on the move, but he is not a guy who will threaten a defense with his ability to run. He is at his best executing play-action and throwing off a conventional five or seven step drop.
Barkley has been well-schooled in playing the position. Watch his movements. See how he pump fakes and uses his eyes to move defenders and open lanes where he can fit the ball to his receivers. He has a superb touch. No quarterback in this class throws the swing pass better than Barkley. But this isn’t what we saw in Kelly’s quarterbacks at Oregon.
The drafting of the USC quarterback is the most significant moment of the Chip Kelly era to date. Not because Barkley will go on to become a franchise quarterback — he could be amazing, he could be a disappointment — but rather because of what it reveals about the new head coach.
Kelly has stated on numerous occasions that he is not married to a specific scheme and will cater to his players’ strengths. But a golden rule when reporting on a team is to watch what they do, not what they say. Up until this point, everything Kelly had done was pro-mobile quarterback. He made the decision to keep Michael Vick. Signed G.J. Kinne and Dennis Dixon. Released Trent Edwards. Nick Foles was on an island. And when word got out that the Kelly had already implemented the read-option, you wondered how Foles could compete and survive.
Barkley doesn’t have the athleticism or the arm talent of Kelly’s previous quarterbacks. NFL.com’s Albert Breer suggested the fourth-rounder does give the Eagles the option of running a two-quarterback offense. More likely, Barkley is around as a fallback option in the case of overwhelming despair should quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles fail to impress in their first season running Kelly’s up-tempo offense.
This club did more than just get great value in the fourth round. Matt Barkley aside, first-round selection Lane Johnson should start immediately. Meanwhile, not only will second-round choice Zach Ertz push tight endBrent Celek, he’ll make the offense more versatile overall. Third-round selection Bennie Logan provides ample insurance for the club’s free-agent investment in nose tackleIsaac Sopoaga.
At the very least, this pick should speed up the departure of Michael Vick. Hanging on to the 33-year-old turnover machine makes even less sense after adding Barkley to the mix. He and Nick Foles give the coaching staff two young talents to focus upon. That should be enough.
Top to bottom, Chip Kelly had a great first NFL draft — using his college knowledge, especially from the Pac-12, to the Eagles’ advantage. Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson and Stanford tight end Zach Ertz are ideal athletes for what Kelly wants to do, and he ended up just needing a fourth-rounder to bring USC’s Matt Barkley into his quarterback competition. Defensively, with Philadelphia transitioning to a 3-4, it got the key elements of a nose tackle (LSU’s Bennie Logan), edge rusher (Utah’s Joe Kruger) and a starting-caliber corner (Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer) in Round 7. Complete draft class
Matt Barkley also piled up huge numbers versus Oregon, and was the first pick taken in Round 4 (I once said I thought Barkley was a future first pick — maybe I meant in Round 4?). Kelly wants competition at QB, and Barkley is going to come in ready to compete. Bennie Logan fits as a potential 3-4 DE or even a nose tackle, and Earl Wolff offers some depth at safety. They needed a corner and got another guy Kelly knows, Jordan Poyer from Oregon State. Joe Kruger isn’t fast, but he could provide a pass rush in this system. Overall, I like what the Eagles accomplished.
The first two picks, Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz, were right on. And the Eagles selected three players who each could have easily been chosen two rounds earlier in Matt Barkley (fourth), Earl Wolff (fifth) and Jordan Poyer (seventh). Said one personnel director, “No way should Barkley have fallen that far.”
Until we know more about Chip Kelly’s plans, let’s just chalk the Matt Barkley pickup to finding a potential first-round QB at No. 98. The rest of this class figures to be more important in 2013. No one more so than OT Lane Johnson, who has the athleticism to thrive under Kelly. TE Zach Ertz could be a dangerous weapon in this offense, too. Defensively, expect DT Bennie Logan to help and CB Jordan Poyer to possibly prove the steal of the draft. Grade: B-plus
From a marketing standpoint: it doesn’t hurt that Barkley is ridiculously good-looking. But I’m not sure that will help him in Philly, either. Overall: Eagles get a golf clap, and perhaps a hoot and holler, for a solid draft.