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Matt Barkley in tough spot as stock drops

How did Matt Barkley get here? Three years ago, the quarterback was embarking on his senior season at Southern Cal after snubbing the NFL despite the expectation by many that he would be a first-round draft pick.

Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley.
Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley.Read more(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

How did Matt Barkley get here?

Three years ago, the quarterback was embarking on his senior season at Southern Cal after snubbing the NFL despite the expectation by many that he would be a first-round draft pick.

Two years ago, he stood on the lawn at the NovaCare Complex after the Eagles selected him in the fourth round and said that he was ready to compete for the starting job.

A year ago, he was passed over for the backup spot behind Nick Foles when the Eagles signed Mark Sanchez and settled into the third-quarterback role.

And now Barkley finds himself fighting for a roster spot with someone who hasn't played in an NFL regular-season game in three years and is hard-pressed to complete a pass beyond 20 yards.

If that player was anyone other than Tim Tebow, the Eagles' third quarterback competition would be just a local phenomenon. Only in Philadelphia was the Trent Edwards-Mike Kafka battle of 2012 considered a story angle worth chronicling with daily updates.

But with Tebow comes a legion of fans, many of them not even casual followers of the NFL, and national attention. While some in the Philadelphia media market have covered the third-quarterback competition with the proper context, Thursday's preseason finale against the New York Jets does afford the opportunity to analyze one of the few roster fights remaining.

And to look back on a draft pick that Chip Kelly probably would want to redo.

After a junior season in which he completed 69.1 percent of his passes and tossed 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, Barkley was widely projected to be a top-10 talent in the draft. Admirably, he elected to stay and win an elusive national title.

Barkley's stock might have dropped during the pre-2012 draft process, but a fall out of the first round considering his success at a major program would have been unlikely. His senior season wasn't a failure by any estimation, but Barkley and the Trojans had their struggles and then he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that November.

He didn't throw at the scouting combine and fell into the fourth round, where the Eagles nabbed him by trading up three spots. It was a bit of a shocker at the time because there was the perception that Kelly wanted only mobile quarterbacks. He had re-signed Michael Vick, after all.

But he also retained Foles. When Kelly announced the Barkley pick, he spoke glowingly of his "repetitive accuracy" and of the times he faced him at Oregon. If he hadn't yet had final say, sources familiar with that Eagles draft said that Barkley was predominantly Kelly's selection.

The reason Barkley did not thrive here is not because he isn't mobile. Kelly has clearly shown that he can win without multipurpose quarterbacks. Barkley's problems have stemmed from a lack of arm strength.

At first, it was the shoulder. But even the marginal power he has gained over the last two years hasn't offset the fact that he doesn't do one thing great.

"Overall, my arm strength is: I'm not even thinking about throwing the ball," Barkley said this week. "Whereas in years past because of pain [from] that injury I was adjusting to certain areas."

Barkley looked his best in the spring, when he was primarily the second-team quarterback. Sam Bradford was still sidelined and Sanchez ran with the starters. Barkley had more zip on his throws and generally looked more poised than he had before.

"I think Matt can make all of the throws in this offense," Kelly said Tuesday. "It's just about getting acclimated, decision making, and he's done a really nice job of it. I think he's better now than when we first got him."

Barkley has always carried himself with a starter's confidence. He has given no indication that he has allowed the events of the last three years to affect his belief in himself. When he has been asked about the pressure of beating out Tebow, there is often a hint of contempt in his responses.

"I've done this before, been playing this position for a long time," Barkley said. "I know what I'm doing. It's not anything new to me."

But sitting and watching has been a different experience. Barkley will get his opportunity to start against the Jets and likely play the first half until Tebow takes over in the second. He thinks it will make a difference.

"Obviously, there's no excuse for those times when you do have to go in at the end of games," Barkley said. "But I think with a clean slate, starting from scratch, it'll be a quicker, more aggressive start."

For Tebow, everything is awesome. His journey from out of the NFL to the cusp of making a roster has been "awesome," working with Kelly has been "awesome," and his relationship with Barkley is "awesome" because, well, "he's an awesome guy."

One thing that hasn't been awesome: The Eagles' third-string quarterback competition.