More Sports:

September 03, 2015

Barkley vs. Tebow, Round 4: We have a winner

Eagles NFL
090315_Tebow_AP Mel Evans/AP

Welcome to the roster, Tebow.

I can't believe I'm about to write this, but here goes...

Tim Tebow just played his way onto the Eagles' 53-man roster.

After the first three preseason games, the battle between Tebow and Matt Barkley for the No. 3 QB spot was too close to call. Both had moments where they looked worthy -- those were accompanied by plenty that strongly suggested otherwise.

But if Chip Kelly put as much stock in Thursday's game as he said he would, then he's seen enough.

Barkley, who got the start in the Eagles 24-18 loss to the Jets, was unimpressive throughout. His three drives resulted in an interception, a punt, and a total of three points. He finished 4-of-9 for 45 yards and the aforementioned pick, which came on his second pass of the game.

Tebow, meanwhile, who alternated quarters with Barkley, played by far his best game of the preseason. Not only did he toss a pair of touchdowns -- his opponent in this roster battle hasn't thrown one since the first preseason game of 2013 -- but he actually looked like the better passer. He finished the game 11-of-17 for 189 yards, two TDs, and an interception.

First, there was his 18-yard touchdown pass to Roxborough High's Rasheed Bailey. It was a well-placed ball with a surprisingly good touch from the former Heisman winner. It's something we haven't seen much of so far this preseason, but don't forget that he's been out of football for two years. Perhaps he just needed a little more time to work out the kinks.

But earlier in the drive, there were a pair of plays that stood out. First, there was the 17-yard scramble in which he avoided getting hit and took off downfield. We all know he can do that; it stood out because of what happened a few plays later. Again, the Jets were quickly in the backfield, this time a pair of them, and Tebow was able to break free to his left. This time, instead of running he tried to hit Freddie Martino along the sideline. It was incomplete, but that was on Martino. Still, his ability to extend the play helped draw a defensive holding call -- and a first down -- from the Jets.

In the fourth quarter, Tebow also showed off his ability to throw the deep ball. This one was also to Martino, for 45 yards, and was probably his best deep pass of the preseason. 

And then there was his second pass TD pass, which came on fourth and six from the nine. It was another pass to Martino, and nearly an identical play to the one mentioned above that resulted in a penalty.

Here's a drive-by-drive look at Barkley vs. Tebow, as well as their stats for the entire preseason:

• 1/2, 5 pass yards, INT
• DRIVE: 2 plays, 5 yards; INT
• Barkley severely under threw Huff, who was a step past the CB, with no safety help over the top.
• Jets scored a TD after taking over on own 46.
1• 1/3, 24 pass yards; 1 rush, 1 yard
• DRIVE: 7 plays, 38 yards; PUNT
• Nice touch pass on 3rd and 7 to Mostert for 24 yards; another one rolling left, but Ajirotutu dropped it (penalty gave them 1st down).
• Airmailed screen to Mostert on 2nd, overthrew Bailey on 3rd.
• 2/4, 33 pass yards
• DRIVE: 12 plays, 71 yards; FG (23y)
• Overthrew Burton twice (badly), but made a nice throw to the TE on 4th and 8 for a first down.
2• 0/0, 0 pass yards; 0 rush, 0 yards
• DRIVE: 4 plays, 2 yards; FG (20y)
• Eagles took over on Jets' 4-yard line but failed to punch it in.
• Tebow simply handed off to Mostert 3 times.
• 1/3, 7 pass yards
• DRIVE: 6 plays, 13 yards; PUNT
• Missed Mostert on a screen pass (threw it high and too hard for him to make a play on).
• In his defense, Jets were all over him, forcing a sack and a throwaway on 3rd down.
• However, Tebow faced similar pressure on TD drive in the second quarter.
3• 1/2, 12 pass yards; 1 rush, 0 yards
• DRIVE: 4 plays, -6 yards (including penalty); PUNT
• Maehl dropped well-placed deep ball over the middle.
• 12 yard pass was screen to Mostert on 3rd and 16
-- -- --  4• 4/5, 69 pass yards, TD; 1 rush, 17 yards
• DRIVE: 7 plays, 85 yards; TD
• Great run on busted play. Broke tackle in backfield, ran for 17 yards.
• A very well thrown touch pass to Bailey in end zone for 18-yard TD.
• His best drive of the preseason, by far. And in the two-minute drill, at that.
-- -- --
 • 3/5, 63 pass yards, INT
• DRIVE: 40 yards (20 penalty yards); INT
• Drive started with Tebow hitting Martino deep down the middle for 45 yards.
• The INT came on a 4th and 15, and there wasn't an open receiver. Not much else he can do there.
-- -- --
 • 2/2, 21 pass yards, TD; 2 rush, 14 yards
• DRIVE: 9 plays, 45 yards; TD
• TD came on 4th and 6. Tebow avoided blitz, rolled out left, and hit Martino for TD.
• GREAT, circus catch by Martino along sideline. 
4/9, 45 yards, INTGAME
11/17, 189 yards, 2 TD, INT; 4 rush, 32 yards
27/52, 351 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT; 2 rush, 7 yards PRESEASON21/36, 286 yards, 2 TD, INT; 14 rush, 82 yards, TD
MORE: Round 1 (Colts), Round 2 (vs. Ravens) and Round 3 (at Packers).

You can't say Tebow doesn't turn it up when it matters most.

His numbers vs. the Jets are better than the rest of his preseason games combined. Take a look:

10/19, 97 pass yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
10 rush, 50 yards, TD
11/17, 189 pass yards, 2 TD, INT
4 rush, 32 yards

Of course, this game won't be the only determining factor when it comes to which QB will make the roster. Kelly will take the whole preseason into account. But even then, Tebow seems to have the edge. He's looked just as competent as Barkley passing the ball, and by saving his best performance for last, it gives the appearance of improvement from the start of the preseason until now. 

Barkley, on the other hand, has regressed throughout the preseason. And at this point, what would Kelly really be losing by cutting him? Although, to be fair, the same could be said for Tebow. Neither inspires a ton of confidence if Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez both go down with injuries. 

But if Kelly plans on keeping three quarterbacks, Tebow has earned* the job.  

*Which should tell you all you need to know about Barkley.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin