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August 06, 2015

It's Tim Tebow vs. Matt Barkley for Eagles No. 3 QB spot

On most rosters, the third-string quarterback is often an afterthought, a guy collecting a paycheck for doing little more than taking practice reps and cheering on his teammates on Sunday. Because after all, if you lose your first- and second-best passers, your season is pretty much over.

But when it comes to the Eagles, there's more than a little interest in who will be backing up the backup when the team opens the season on September 14 against the Falcons. Mainly because one of the players in that competition is a two-time national champion and former Heisman trophy winner named Tim Tebow.

On Thursday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly confirmed what many had already thought to be true -- that the competition for the third and final QB spot is between Tebow and Matt Barkley.

And perhaps one of the things that could give Tebow an edge, despite his well-documented struggles throwing the ball, is his overall athletic ability. 

"Tim [Tebow] obviously has a lot of skills that other quarterbacks don’t have because of his ability to run the football," Kelly said when asked what he could bring to the offense. "But we haven’t delved into any of that. ... We haven’t spent any time as an offensive staff looking at how we can do this, or what can we do working out how the final roster is going to express itself.”

And from a optimist's point of view, that would be a great weapon to have on the bench, especially in goal line and short yardage situations. If the two QBs ahead of him on the depth chart go down, however, and Tebow is forced into a starting role, it could spell bad news for one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.

Barkley, on the other hand, brings a more traditional skill set. And since Kelly was the one who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the coach's first with the Eagles, it stands to reason that he sees something he likes* in the former USC passer.

*Unless reports that Kelly tried to trade Barkley this offseason are true.

Still, there hasn't been much to like from Barkley in his two NFL games. In total, he was 28-of-46 for 287 yards with four interceptions, a fumble ... and no touchdowns. Not exactly the kind of  résumé you want leading your offense, but Kelly said he's liked what he's seen out of Barkley this offseason.

“I thought [Barkley] had a really, really good April to June for us," Kelly said. "I thought it was a big improvement in terms of where he was. It was interesting, when we got into the beginning of our offseason program, he was the quarterback with the most experience in our offense. ... I think he's progressed. At times, it's difficult for all those guys, because they're not getting into rhythm and just getting reps right now. But I think Matt's made a lot of strides and we're excited to see where he is."

According to Kelly, the competition is wide open. But then again, that's how he likes to keep it at every position. The decision on which player will be the Eagles third-string quarterback will likely come down to the wire.

“The big performance for Matt and all the other guys is when we finally get a chance to go against the Colts in the first preseason game, and then the Ravens, and then the Packers, and then the Jets," Kelly added. "For any quarterback, you’re still wearing a red jersey. Even when the rush comes clean, [the defense is] going to pull off and kind of get away from you. But it’s not going to be like that when they get into those preseason games.

"That'll be the real test for all those guys."