Eagles' Barkley intent on improving from sideline

Eagles' Barkley intent on improving from sideline
August 29, 2013, 8:00 am
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Matt Barkley has throw for 175 yards and a TD in two preseason games. (AP)

Once the season begins, that’s when the real work begins.

In dark, empty film rooms. After practice with the backup receivers. On the sideline, just watching.

Matt Barkley, the Eagles’ rookie quarterback from USC, is expected to play a good chunk of the Eagles’ preseason finale against the Jets Thursday evening in East Rutherford.
 
Then he’ll disappear. At least, to us.
 
For the 22-year-old Barkley, who’s been a starter since freshman year of high school, this will be the first autumn in his life he’s not playing football every weekend.
 
“You always want to play, but this is the circumstance I’m in, and I’m going to make the most of it, get as many pregame reps as I can, help Mike get loose and just stay in the game,” Barkley said.
 
“You have the headset in your helmet, and you stay in tune with what’s going on, go through mental reps and the reads, help Michael out as much as I can as far as what we see from the sideline while he’s playing.”
 
Barkley’s hope of elbowing his way into the quarterback competition between Vick and Nick Foles never materialized this summer.
 
Barkley had a decent camp but rarely got first-team reps and never had a chance to play meaningful first-half minutes in any of the preseason games.
 
Now he’s in uncharted waters. Trying to figure out how to make the most of a football season without actually playing football.
 
“That’s what this year can’t be -- it can’t be a wasted year just because you’re not playing,” Barkley said. “It’s a valuable time for me just to really spend the time, whether it’s in the film room or the weight room doing extra stuff, knowing you’re not going to play, knowing your body’s not going to be banged up, hit the gym extra hard and get all those extra reps in the film room to maximize things so you come back next year even stronger.
 
“I think I know what not to do and what to do to keep getting better. So you just have to keep your mind strong and remember that you’re still there for a purpose and try to take advantage of every opportunity you have to keep on improving.”
 
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor will develop an in-season program for Barkley and Foles, as long as Vick stays healthy.
 
Especially for young quarterbacks, it’s imperative they don’t stop working and learning and progressing once they stop playing and practicing.
 
“That’s a big thing, what is your game plan when your guys are not playing, because that's the one position where you're not going to play, barring an injury,” Kelly said.
 
“We've talked about it and what his plan is for Matt and for Nick if we kept going and Mike stays healthy. You've got a couple of guys that you've got to really make sure that they are on top of their game, and it's hard, because they don't get those reps and it's not like you can throw them in a scrimmage situation because you're not scrimmaging during the week, you are always planning for your next opponent.
 
“There's a plan in place from how much we are throwing what days we are throwing on with those guys to continue to develop them.”
 
Barkley completed 19 of 36 passes for 175 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in preseason appearances against the Patriots and Panthers. He didn’t play Saturday night in Jacksonville.
 
Foles and Barkley are expected to quarterback the Eagles against the Jets on Thursday, and it could very well be the last we see of Barkley until next summer.
 
“I’m really looking forward to just an opportunity to play,” Barkley said. “Tough defense, lot of different looks, they’re not vanilla like some of the teams we’ve played so far, so looking forward to whoever I’m out there with, I feel confident with the system that I can move the ball down the field.”
 
The one criticism of Barkley we’ve all heard this summer is that his arm isn’t strong enough.
 
But he did miss the end of his senior year with a separated shoulder, and he said that really affected him when he got here.
 
“I think my arm strength has gotten better,” said Barkley, who threw for 12,327 yards, completed 64 percent of his passes and threw 116 touchdowns to just 48 interceptions in 47 games at USC.

“It took a lot longer to heal than we thought it would. I feel strong where I am right now. I don’t know if I’ve had a chance to really showcase that, but that’s not up to me. I’ll do as much as I can to keep getting that arm stronger.
 
“Over time and over the course of your career, you should still be trying to get that stronger, and that’s the goal right now."
 
What are the odds Barkley will start a game this year?
 
Since Ron Jaworski’s then NFL-record streak of 116 consecutive starts ended in 1984, the Eagles have used three different starting quarterbacks eight times in 28 years: 1986 (Jaworski, Randall Cunningham, Matt Cavanaugh), 1991 (Cunningham, Jim McMahon, Brad Goebel, Jeff Kemp), 1993 (Cunningham, Bubby Brister, Ken O’Brien), 1997 (Rodney Peete, Ty Detmer, Bobby Hoying), 1998 (Peete, Hoying, Koy Detmer), 1999 (Doug Pederson, Donovan McNabb, Koy Detmer), 2002 (McNabb, A.J. Feeley, Koy Detmer) and 2009 (McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Vick).
 
If Barkley winds up playing, will he be ready?
 
“Absolutely,” he said. “I feel like I could go out there right now and not hesitate at all with any of the reads or any of the progressions.
 
“If I had to play, I feel like it would be a smooth transition if I get called on.”