Matt Barkley hasn’t met Michael Vick but he’s competed against and has gotten to know Nick Foles.
Regardless of whether he knows the other Eagles’ quarterbacks, or where he was taken in the NFL draft, or where he’s slotted on the depth chart, Barkley’s mission remains undeterred.
He plans to compete to be the first starting quarterback of the Chip Kelly era, not defer or cower to anyone else with the same objective.
“Well, they’ve both done great things, and Michael has had an unbelievable career,” Barkley said Friday, after the team’s first rookie camp practice. “You come in as a teammate to them, not as a fan. You come in as someone who is ready to compete against them at the same time.
“I’ll get to know them those guys, and I’m sure from what I’ve heard they are outstanding men, but you come in knowing that you have a job and they’re trying to take that job as well, so it’s competition, you know. Competing is what it’s all about.”
Barkley, who set all sorts of college and conference passing records at USC, is acclimating to Kelly’s fast-paced offense that has some similarities to offenses that Barkley engineered in the past but also has plenty of differences.
Many wonder how he fits into the picture, given his lack of mobility and arm strength that recently came under criticism of scouts and talent evaluators and assisted in his descent from a potential top-15 draft pick if he had come after his junior year to the first pick of the fourth round, 98th overall.
Barkley hardly seemed overwhelmed or skeptical.
“You know, I’ll make it fit,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what plays we run, I’m going to find a way to help this team out, and I know Coach Kelly has a way of working things out as well in terms of how he schemes and how he calls plays, so I’m not worried. I’m just worried about the here and now and what I can do right now.”
Like Foles did, Barkley caught first-hand glimpses of Kelly’s Oregon offenses during their Pac-12 clashes, many of which were high-scoring shootouts that put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
Two years ago, he threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns against the Ducks. Last year, he passed for 484 yards and five touchdowns against Kelly’s defense.
“As an opponent it’s difficult because you always are going back on the field after a score, it feels like, not a punt or a turnover or anything,” Barkley recalled, “so as an opponent you are always on your heels in terms of, ‘Oh I have to get back up get back on and score.’
“So there is a lot of pressure, and now that I’m on this end, it’s a better situation and hopefully we can put that pressure on other teams.”
For the first time, he actually gets to run Kelly’s offense instead of rooting against it. And although there are plenty of offensive concepts that he’s learning for the first time, Barkley welcomed the opportunity to showcase his potential here.
“I love it. It’s a new challenge,” he said. “It’s new terminology. It’s like learning a new language in a short time period and so it’s the next step. I’m embracing it, and I loved being out there [Friday].”
Despite the attention on his skills that seemingly clash with offenses Kelly has designed in the past, Barkley believes his best attributes are perfect fits.
“You have to be a smart decision maker, a quick decision maker, which I pride myself in,” he said. “[My] football knowledge, getting the ball out quick, I can make all the throws in this offense, you know. I love what we are doing and just commanding, being a commander out there, commanding the field and if it persists I’ll be good.”
It’s not known yet where on the depth chart Barkley’s career will begin, but Kelly has frequently said his quarterback competition will be wide open and take perhaps the whole spring and summer to settle out.
As a fourth rounder, Barkley was drafted lower than Vick, the first overall pick in 2001, and Foles, whom the Eagles drafted last year in the third round. He was drafted just 58 spots ahead of Dennis Dixon, the former Oregon quarterback drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round of the ’08 draft.
But even if Barkley’s stock hadn’t dropped in his final year at USC, he said he would have arrived here with a point to prove.
“I think whether I was in the first round or the seventh round I was going to come in here either way with a chip on my shoulder, looking to prove something,” he said, “and so it doesn’t matter where I ended up. The fact is that I’m here and I have a shot to play on the field this year.”