Eagles Quarterback Matt Barkley Hearing Footsteps From Tebow
Coaches know Matt Barkley needs to step up this year. Fans know Matt Barkley needs to step up this year. And for the first time, it seems as though Matt Barkley finally knows that he needs to step up this year.
There are dynamics at work in the Eagles offense this year. A second 10-6 season which ended with a "close but no cigar" twice. No player can be complacent on this team. Legendary players like Trent Cole, NFL elites like LeSean McCoy, and even comeback players like Jeremy Maclin, are no longer on this team. So when a third string quarterback notices another quarterback signing, and with unique skills that would appear to fit what Chip Kelly is trying to do on offense, it's logical that he would be a little nervous. To a quarterback about to get sacked, they sometimes gain the sixth sense of knowing when pressure is arriving. The quarterback "hears footsteps". Barkley knows Tebow is breathing down his neck. At least that's how I'm categorizing his comments after Thursday's practice.
"He's (Tim Tebow is) not taking my reps on the field. He's an arm we need for the team, with G.J. making the move to receiver. Tim's just one of us. He's trying to make the team just like we all are. It hasn't effected my approach to how I feel the team thinks of me or how I'm going out to compete every day. I'm not looking to compete for the third spot. That is, what it is based off contract numbers. I'm just looking to play my best. If that winds up being third, then so be it. If it ends up being the first, I'll be happy with that. I can't control how money talks. I'm just going to perform how I see fit."
But Tim Tebow's presence didn't really need any explanation from Matt Barkley. Which is why the comments seemed to be more than a casual statement of pecking order nor of downplaying the competition this year at the quarterback spot.
The Eagles' quarterback situation is becoming fascinating. Once thought to be a shoe in for a miracle trade for now Tennessee Titan quarterback Marcus Mariota, the combination of Bradford, Sanchez, Barkley, and now Tebow has developed a bit of a competitive edge.
Competition. It's the fundamental philosophy of the sport. Too often we shy away from the nature of competition as some sort of evil that should not be spoken of. Even the sport that is based on the principal run schizophrenic when confronted with good old fashioned competition among teammates.
But Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly embraces the concept. More than a catch phrase, he embraces the fundamentals of open competition on the team - where the first encounter with the team resulted in a young Nick Foles emerging in the second half of 2013 as a starting NFL quarterback. While he did take a step back in 2014, he was intriguing enough to entice the Saint Louis Rams to trade away their former first round drafted quarterback in Sam Bradford.
That trade, and the expectation that the team really wanted Mariota, has left the position "vulnerable". Despite the expectation that Bradford will be the starting quarterback by default, second year Eagle Mark Sanchez revealed that he came back to the Eagles with an expectation to compete for the starting job.
If you look up the careers of Barkley, Sanchez, Bradford, and Tebow - you won't find Manning like numbers. But to this offense, to this coach, to this system, they needn't bring that to the table. Kelly needs quick decision, accurate passing, threat to run out of his quarterbacks. That's what the system is designed for.
So far, Barkley has not been the quick decision, accurate passing, threat to run guy. Perhaps Tebow is?
But don't let Matt Barkley fool you. He's not unaware of the risk to his career. He hears Tebow's footsteps. He had better pick up the pace, or he'll be packing up his gear.