Eagles Postgame Analysis: Matt Barkley vs. Tim Tebow in Battle for Third String Quarterback Spot


Aside from a few minor concerns (the performances of Mark Sanchez and Cody Parkey come to mind), the Eagles preseason opening win against the Indianapolis Colts was largely a success. Chip Kelly came away from a 36-10 victory without any major injuries suffered and plenty of tape to draw upon as the team prepares for it’s second exhibition showdown Saturday against the Ravens.

Preseason or not, the importance of having a competent, established depth chart of quarterbacks is crucial to the success of a team like the Eagles. Very rarely does the signal-caller that sits atop the depth chart remain there for the entire season, whether it’s due to injury or poor performance. Because of this, teams take as much advantage or preseason action as they can to determine who fills out the depth at the game’s most important position.

The Eagles are in an especially interesting predicament when trying to decide on their 3rd string quarterback. 3rd year man Matt Barkley, whom the Eagles drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 Draft, has long been a subject of trade rumors but has still stuck around in Philadelphia to this point. Given his limited opportunities to showcase his skills to the coaching staff and a handful of underwhelming performances when in action, Barkley’s career as an Eagle to this point has been mostly an afterthought. On the other hand Tim Tebow, acquired via free agency this offseason, presents a unique skillset that many feel Chip Kelly can utilize more than others around the league. With Sam Bradford on the sideline and Sanchez seeing limited action, the two would both be able to state their case for remaining on the roster this Sunday.

Barkley took over the Eagles offense after two drives led by Sanchez. The former USC Trojan wasted no time demonstrating his ability to attack the opposition through the air. Barkley’s first two passes, completions to Jordan Matthews and Miles Austin, covered 55 yards and set the Eagles up on the nine-yard line of the Colts. Kenjon Barner’s touchdown scamper capped a Barkley-led touchdown drive that spanned just one minute and fifteen seconds.

Barkley’s next drive featured another strong connection, this time to tight end Trey Burton, for 21 yards and a first down. It would come to an abrupt end, however, when a tipped pass at the line fell into the waiting arms of an Indianapolis defender. After the game, Chip Kelly explained that the design of the play was to have the Colt who tipped the pass blocked. Nevertheless, Barkley’s second drive came to an end in unceremonious fashion.

Barkley bounced back nicely, though. He would lead two more scoring drives, one of which came in the final minutes of the first half, and finish with 192 yards of passing. After one third quarter drive, Barkley would hand over the reigns to Tebow.

After one of the more rousing ovations ever given to a 3rd string quarterback, Tebow was impressive in his first action as an Eagle. He completed his first four passes, three to tight end Eric Tomlinson, and maintained the type of tempo that Kelly’s offense is noted for. His drive would ultimately sputter in the red zone and would turn out to be fruitless after Parkey missed a 34-yard field goal.

The rest of the afternoon was somewhat of a mixed bag for Tebow. He did get himself into trouble holding onto the ball and trying to evade the Indianapolis pass rush on multiple occasions. Working with the third-string offense, Tebow did manage a few more impressive completions totaling 69 yards through the air. He did provide a fitting exclamation point to his first showing as an Eagle by way of a 7-yard touchdown scamper after pulling the ball on a read-option style run play.

Though it hasn’t been a secret that Kelly has tried to trade Barkley for some time, one would have a tough time arguing that he wasn’t the most impressive of all three quarterbacks (Sanchez included) on Sunday. He showed confidence and a command of the offense that had been missing from his performances in the past. Unless another team comes knocking on Kelly’s door for a trade offer, it will be interesting to see if Barkley continues to work ahead of Tebow or if Chip decides to allow both quarterbacks to work with the 2nd and 3rd string offenses. Tebow showed some signs of mechanical improvement and still has a strong presence on the field. If both players remain on the roster throughout the preseason, the ultimate decision for Kelly on who to keep could be an interesting one.

Next: Mark Sanchez Struggles in Preseason Opener

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