The Eagles' quarterback situation is uncertain entering the offseason, but it does not appear Matt Barkley is any closer to earning the starting job than he was when he arrived as a rookie in 2013.
Barkley, the once-heralded Southern California quarterback the Eagles selected in the fourth round two seasons ago, threw only one pass this season. He was the third-string quarterback behind Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez after spending his rookie year as the No. 3 behind Foles and Michael Vick.
Barkley and Sanchez were in a competition to be Foles' backup last summer, but it became clear early in training camp that role would be filled by Sanchez.
In the aftermath of his second season, Barkley does not know what his future holds. He said he wants to be in Philadelphia and he likes playing for Chip Kelly. He conceded that he will speak with his agent this offseason to get a sense of the league's quarterback landscape.
If Foles returns, he is the likely starter. Foles could have competition. When the Eagles drafted Barkley, Kelly talked about Barkley's competing for the starting job. Two years in, though, it's fair to wonder whether Barkley could even be the No. 2 quarterback in his third season.
Barkley insisted he has made strides in his development - especially in 2014, when his right shoulder was finally healthy. Barkley and the coaching staff admitted that Barkley was not at his best as a rookie.
Barkley never had the chance to show that progress on the field. He mentioned his footwork, his throwing motion, his knowledge of the offense, and his passing efficiency as areas in which the coaches have offered positive feedback.
"I think I'm about where I need to be," Barkley said. "I feel better than I ever did at USC, in terms of confidence in my arm and throwing the ball. I feel fit, in shape, and excited for this offseason to get back to it."
Barkley received more reps in practice after Foles broke his collarbone in November. Kelly said that Barkley has "really done [well] grasping things" and has improved.
"I think he's got a future here," Kelly said.
The coaches did not consider giving Barkley work in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants last Sunday, instead continuing with Sanchez as the starter. Sanchez is a pending free agent, while Barkley is under contract through 2016. But the coaches thought Sanchez gave them a better chance of winning, and they also believe they have an idea of what Barkley provides.
"I think we've seen him improve greatly in the year he's been with us - at least in this last year," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "I think when he gets his opportunity to play in games, everybody is going to see it. We certainly haven't seen him in a game, and that's going to be where it's important for him, when he gets in games."
Barkley played in spot duty as a rookie, and the results were discouraging. Although he entered in difficult situations, he threw four interceptions without a touchdown. He looked better last preseason, when he completed 63.1 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Barkley said his understanding of the offensive scheme and the tempo will be an advantage for him.
"They want to see an overall consistency in decision-making and putting the ball in the right place," Barkley said. "The one thing Chip hates the most is giving the ball away. As long as I can focus on protecting the ball and making sound, timely decisions, that's what they want."
The improvement has occurred outside of the public eye, which is new for Barkley. He was a top recruit in high school, and the face of USC's program. Barkley knew life only as a starting quarterback in his eight seasons before coming to Philadelphia. He has found a benefit in fading into the background, but he also sounds ready to enter the forefront again.
"It's almost a little break, in a sense," Barkley said. "You don't have to do all the interviews. You don't have to do all the photo shoots. You can just focus on training and getting better. So it's provided a chance to just focus on my craft without distractions and outside factors. I've gotten better."