In Year 2, Matt Barkley 'way ahead of last year'

In Year 2, Matt Barkley 'way ahead of last year'
July 27, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Matt Barkley completed 61 percent of his passes in his rookie season, the 12th highest in NFL history by a rookie, but had four interceptions and no touchdowns. (USA Today Images)

The reps are few and far between these days for Matt Barkley. A couple times at practice Sunday, G.J. Kinne was the third man in after Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez during team drills and Barkley stood and watched, waiting for his turn.

A couple times, Barkley was left to throw on the side with a ball boy, just to stay sharp.

Such is life as a third-stringer who is trying not to become a fourth-stringer.

Barkley was a celebrated rookie last year, a former record setter at USC, sixth in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting, only the sixth quarterback the Eagles drafted with a top-100 pick in the last 40 years.

These days, he’s just fighting for a roster spot.

“I’m not worried,” Barkley said after a steamy practice at the NovaCare Complex Sunday (see observations).

“I’m just worried about what I can control, and that’s taking every snap I do get and making the most of it.”

Barkley admitted the lack of work bothered him last year, but he said he’s learned to not think about it and just make the best out of the few reps that come his way.

He said head coach Chip Kelly has told him repeatedly not to worry about how the practice snaps are split up among the quarterbacks and just be ready all the time.

“Chip’s told me that over and over again,” he said. “I feel like I’m making the most of those opportunities out here and the ones I get in pregame, and I’ll be fine.

“I did learn that last year, with that crazy rotation we had at quarterback, to not worry about the reps. You never know when you’re going to get a chance and just be diligent and be ready not matter what your reps are.”

Barkley, the first pick of the fourth round last year, was forced into emergency action twice last year and completed 61 percent of his passes — 12th-highest in NFL history by a rookie — though he had four interceptions and no touchdowns.

Barkley produced one of the plays of the day Sunday, a 40-yard strike down the left sideline that floated above cornerback Davon Morgan and settled into the hands of speedy LSU rookie Kadron Boone.

It’s a throw we wouldn’t have seen from Barkley last year, when he was still battling the effects of a college shoulder injury.

“Feel like I’m way ahead of last year,” he said. “Just my knowledge of the offense, shoulder’s healthy, just feel like [I have a] more fluid motion, better rapport with the receivers. Far ahead of last year.”

It’s been 49 years since the Eagles drafted a quarterback as high as Barkley and then cut ties with him before his second season. That was John Huarte, the 76th pick in 1965.

Remember him? Me either.

But Barkley said he’s not taking anything for granted. He realizes that despite his college resume, he doesn’t have a roster spot locked up.

“I don’t think any day you can go in like that, thinking you do,” he said. “Even Nick believes that. Never feel satisfied, never feel like your set.

“I never had that mentality at ‘SC either. So I’m going in and competing no matter what. I don’t know what my position is now or what anybody’s is down the road, long term. We’ll see what happens. Right now, my focus just has to be on today.”

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