Let’s take a more in-depth look at the player the Eagles traded up for and drafted in the 4th round (pick 98):
40 – 4.91
Hands – 10 1/8
* 4-year starter at USC. Also started all 4 years in high school, at major powerhouse Mater Dei.
* 34-13 record as starter at USC
* Barkley set Pac-12 career records for passing yards (12,327), completions (1,001), touchdowns (116) and total offense (12,214) as he won the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy, was a finalist for the Manning Award, Unitas Golden Arm Award, Senior CLASS Award and ARA Sportsmanship Award and was a National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete. USC’s first-ever 3-time captain, he set 20 USC career, season and game records (10 were Pac-12 standards). Last fall, he completed 63.6% of his passes for 3,273 yards and 36 TDs.
Barkley is a talented QB with NFL ability, but he is not a sure thing to even become a starter, let alone a good starter. There is a reason that Barkley fell down to the 4th round. Great value or not, he was still the 98th pick in a league that is so desperate for good QBs that teams were happy to acquire Matt Cassel, David Garrard, and Chase Daniel this offseason.
Let’s talk about what we know with Barkley. He has great experience. He played for a tough coach in Lane Kiffin. Barkley played in a system that combines elements of the WCO and the spread. He threw a ton of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage (LOS). Barkley benefited from his extremely talented WRs racking up run-after-catch (RAC) yards. The flip side is that Barkley got the ball out quickly and accurately so that the receivers could then make plays for him. He wasn’t throwing lollipops out wide and then watching them just run 50 yards against low-level competition.
Let’s talk about competition for just a second. USC is one of a handful of schools that has never played a I-AA (FCS) opponent. They play league games and regional or big time opponents. Barkley played in 11 games this year. 8 of the defenses he faced finished in the Top 50 in the nation. By comparison, Geno Smith faced 4 such defenses. EJ Manuel faced 5 of them (in 14 games). Smith played one game vs I-AA competition (James Madison). Manuel’s first 2 games of the year were against Murray State and Savannah State. FSU won by a total of 124-3. Say what you want about Barkley, but he has played good competition.
Now for the breakdown:
Accuracy – Good. Barkley is an accurate passer. Please don’t mention completion percentage. That’s not what we’re talking about. An accurate QB puts the ball in a specific spot, time after time. Chip Kelly unloaded a new phrase on us the other day – repetitive accuracy. That’s exactly right. The point is that you want a QB who will get the ball to his receivers the same way over and over so that they know where to expect it. That helps the receivers get their hands in position to make the grab. The goal is for the receiver to catch the ball on the move so that he can then get RAC yards. Most QBs are taught to aim for a player’s midsection. Drew Brees has an interesting theory. He aims for a receiver’s eyes. He says they will never lose sight of the ball that way.
Kelly likes Barkley’s accuracy quite a bit. And he should. Barkley consistently puts the ball out in front of his receivers so that they can catch it on the run. I was surprised at how good Barkley is with some intermediate and even deep balls. He is very good with fade routes down the sideline. Barkley truest his receivers to make a play and will put the ball right there on them and the DB. His deep accuracy is inconsistent, but as a point of reference it is much better than Nick Foles from 2011.
My favorite passes from Barkley came on throws to the sideline. He put the ball behind the CB and in front of the S. He would even do this vs man coverage when the WR was covered. These throws had a combination of touch and velocity. Great play and a pass that Barkley threw as well as anyone could.
Arm Strength – Average. Too many people rip Barkley as if he has a terrible arm. That’s not the case. He has an average arm. He actually is a better deep passer than most realize. The key there is that he can use his lower body to help generate throwing power. There was a play in the 2nd half of the Utah game where Barkley threw the ball from his 9-yard line to Marqise Lee and Lee caught it at the Utes 32-yard line. That ball traveled 59 yards in the air. Lee had to slow down at the last second, but that was a good deep ball. Barkley does have more underthrown deep balls than you’d like. You’ll see his WRs slow down for the ball and make the catch. Good result, but still an underthrown pass.
To me, the bigger issue is that some of Barkley’s intermediate throws lack the kind of velocity you’d prefer. This led to some INTs and incompletions. Defenders have a chance to jump routes that they shouldn’t be able to get to. There was a play in one game when Barkley drifted to his left. He saw a WR open over the middle. Barkley didn’t have time to turn his body and step into the throw. He was parallel to the LOS and threw with an odd motion. The pass was right on the money and complete, but had little velocity to it. In the NFL, a DB would likely get to that pass. He will have to adjust to NFL game speed. I don’t think Barkley has the arm strength to throw from different platforms and get the ball to his targets quickly.
Barkley is an excellent touch passer and there are times when he’s trying to throw a catchable pass rather than a bullet. It will be interesting to see if Barkley adjusts this in the NFL and tries to put more velocity on his throws.
Pocket Presence – Inconsistent. Barkley at times is a savvy veteran that moves around pretty well and is able to buy time. There are other plays when he shows no feel for rushers being near him. The USC offensive line was a mess in 2012 so it was tough to get a feel for him based on that. Put on the Stanford game and you’ll see the OL just getting manhandled. Barkley isn’t afraid of sitting in the pocket when under duress. In fact, there are times when he’s too tough and would be wiser to move around.
Athleticism – Average. Barkley isn’t going to scare anyone with his mobility, but he ran a respectable 40 time. Barkley ran for 6 career TDs. Geno Smith had 4, Landry Jones 3, and Ryan Nassib 5. Those guys are all pocket passers. Barkley can throw on the run. USC did a lot with bootlegs and Barkley is effective on them. I wouldn’t call it a strength, though. Barkley isn’t very elusive when trying to get away from rushers, but he does know how to slide. He will run when there is room and no better option, but don’t expect more than a few yards. His long run at USC was 27 yards.
Mechanics – Good. Barkley has played under Center and in the shotgun. He never played in a pure spread offense so he understands how to take snaps, drop back, set, and throw the ball. His motion is fluid and natural. His footwork is good. There aren’t wasted steps. He doesn’t have busy feet. Barkley is smart enough to adjust his body when making different throws. He’ll adjust his release point depending on if he wants the ball high or low. Barkley doesn’t have a cannon for an arm so he does a good job of stepping into throws to help drive the ball. Way too many QBs are casual with their feet and make arm throws. Barkley has been well-coached over the years and it shows. Barkley does a good job with play fakes. He extends the ball to the RB to sell the run action.
Instincts/Reading Coverage/Decision-Making – This category is really hard to judge without seeing coaches tape and knowing the USC offense really well. From a simplistic level, I see Barkley generally finding the open receiver. There are times when Barkley makes a mistake and puts a ball into coverage. Some times these are aggressive throws, but I also saw some where Barkley didn’t see a defender and flat out made a bad read. Barkley was too aggressive at times. He isn’t afraid to put the ball into a tight window. You like the fact that he’s fearless, but he threw 48 career INTs and that’s too many. Geno Smith and Ryan Nassib combined to throw 49 career picks.
One of Barkley’s biggest strengths is also a major weakness. He doesn’t like to give up on plays. This led to him taking some dumb chances. When defenders got into the backfield, Barkley’s internal clock sped up a bit, but he kept looking downfield. There are some plays where he would throw the ball away as he was being hit or slung to the ground. Dumb, dumb, and dumb. Take the sack. Don’t risk the turnover. Eli Manning is the best QB I’ve ever seen at doing this and getting away with it. Ben Roethlisberger is up there, but he does fumble too much. Barkley didn’t fumble much at all, but if he tries that stuff in the NFL, he’s going to be in trouble.
In defense of Barkley, he went into a lot of games knowing that he had to score a lot of points. The USC defense ranged from average to awful during his tenure. The running game was mediocre. That meant Barkley and the passing attack had to make plays. Barkley was 8-8 in games where USC scored 24 points or less. He knew that points had to be scored and that meant being aggressive and taking chances.
I don’t have stats for Barkley as a Red Zone passer, but he passed the eye test. He showed the ability to make quick reads and get the ball out immediately or to give his guys time to get open. I didn’t see reckless throws or decisions in the RZ. Barkley threw 116 career TDs. The only active QB with more is Landry Jones (123) and he played in 5 more games.
I also like the fact that Barkley gave his receivers a chance to make plays. He would put the ball near them when single-covered, knowing that he had talented WRs that could go get the ball. Think about the Super Bowl and the 3rd down pass that Joe Flacco made to Anquan Boldin. Flacco threw to a covered WR, but Boldin went up and got the ball. That was a huge play. It wasn’t a high percentage play, but you must be able to take chances like that in some situations. Barkley got to play with skilled receivers in college and that will serve him well in the NFL.
Intangibles – Very good. I cannot stress this enough. Matt Barkley is not Mark Sanchez or Matt Leinart. Those guys played at USC with complete teams that could dominate. Sanchez was only the starter for one full season. USC had the #2 defense in the nation and the #22 running game. In Leinart’s 3 years as a starter…he lost a total of 2 games. Those teams were loaded with great college talent (and some pretty good NFL talent). Barkley had defenses that ranked 40th, 54th, 84th, and 60th. The rushing attack was 44th, 25th, 53rd, and 71st. It was up to Barkley to carry USC in his time there.
Sanchez and Leinart also played at USC in the glamour days. Snoop Dogg was there at practice. Will Ferrell was on the sideline at games. Life was good. Life was fun. Barkley was there when the glamour was gone and football was the focus. Leinart stayed at USC for his Senior year despite having a chance to be a high pick. He took one class…ballroom dancing. Leinart wanted to enjoy the good life for another year. He was dating gorgeous SoCal babes, learning to dance, and playing football. Heck, that’s a lifestyle that NFL players would be jealous of.
Barkley showed great leadership after his Freshman season when Carroll left and things started to get ugly. Barkley went to the football office and got a list of recruits. He called them to let the guys know he was staying and that he wanted the guys to still come to USC. There was no coach in place. There were rumors of NCAA sanctions coming down. Barkley was doing everything in his power to keep things together. He was the leader of the program and wasn’t even a Sophomore. Think about where you were at that time in your life. Could you have done that? I had a hard time getting to Friday classes after Thursday night drinking.
I don’t want to paint Barkley out to be a saint, but his family seems to have done a good job of keeping him grounded. They have stayed active in charity work over the years. Back in 2010, with no bowl game to go to, Barkley took a trip to Nigeria during Christmas break. That’s no joke. He went to do some help with a missionary that was friends with his mom.
We’re always judging players from far away so one can never be sure, but Barkley sure looks like the kind of guy you would trust as your franchise QB. He’s smart, driven, successful, and doesn’t project the glamour boy image that other USC QBs did.
Projecting Barkley to the NFL is tough. I could see him having a terrific career or getting stuck as a career backup. I don’t doubt that he’ll be in the league for a while. He loves football and seems like the kind of guy who will do whatever he can to stick around. I do question if he’s got the physical ability to be a good starter. Put him in the right situation and I think he’s got a chance.
We don’t yet know what Chip Kelly’s offense will look like. We anticipate lots of quick throws and plays designed to create 1-on-1 matchups. There will also be plenty of running the ball. If that is the case, Barkley is a good fit. He’s not going to hit DeSean Jackson 60 yards down the field very often, but Barkley will get the ball out quickly on short throws and give the Eagles talented receivers a chance to make plays for him.
Kelly will give all his QBs a chance to show what they can do. Barkley has the experience to step in right away and challenge for a job, but I don’t expect him to beat out the competition. It would be a great story if it happens, but don’t count on it. Barkley has never faced competition like this, either in terms of the defenses he’ll face or the players he’ll battle for the QB job.
I know many people are going to talk about the fact Barkley was just a 4th round pick and how it is rare that those guys pan out. There is an x-factor here. The Eagles had a higher grade on him. Back in 2000 the Patriots got Tom Brady in the 6th round, but they had him rated much higher. Brady wasn’t your typical 6th round QB. Barkley isn’t your typical 4th rounder. I had Brady rated as a 2nd rounder back then. I had Barkley rated as a 3rd rounder this year. I’m not comparing the players, but rather the circumstances around them and where they got drafted. I liked Tom Brady a lot back then. I’m more ambivalent about Barkley. I hope he pans out in the NFL, but don’t feel overly confident that it will happen.
I watched Gruden’s QB Camp with Barkley after the draft. I was a bit disappointed in the episode. Gruden got stuck discussing protection, but it was frustrating because Barkley explained the play in question very well. Barkley told Gruden what the defense was, what the protection was, and what went wrong. The LT missed an assignment. The rest of the offense did their job correctly.
I did like the fact that Gruden was beating it into Barkley’s head that he needs to make his teammates focus on protection. Gruden showed some good blocks by the RB and told Barkley that he should be praising the heck out of the guy for plays like that. Those blocks are crucial.
My favorite part came when Gruden was focused on a simple play. It is a play-action pass where the FB goes to the flat and there are a couple of players downfield. Gruden showed the play in the Arizona game. It was 4th/2 and in scoring territory. The FB was wide open in the flat. Barkley threw downfield for the TE, who wasn’t able to make the catch. Gruden lectured Barkley on making the smart read and going for the FB. As he said, “You’ll never go broke making a profit.” Great line. If you have an open receiver, get him the ball. Don’t force the situation and go for big plays when you’ve got easy yards right there for the taking.
How does Barkley do with the Bill Parcells QB requirements?
The candidate must be a senior.
The candidate must be a college graduate, and he must hold a 4 year degree.
The candidate must have a B average or better in school.
The candidate must have been a 3 year starter in college.
The candidate must have made 30 starts in college.
The candidate must have 23 victories in college.
The candidate must impress us as a strong leadership figure
The candidate must be strongly recommended by his head coach.
The candidate cannot have a rap-sheet, or run-ins with the law.
Barkley meets all of the requirements that we know of. The only question we have is whether Lane Kiffin gave him a strong recommendation. I’d be shocked if that didn’t happen.
There is a new system some believe in. 26-27-60.
The QB prospect needs to score 26 or higher on the Wonderlic, win 27 or more games in college, and complete 60 percent or higher of his passes. We don’t know Barkley’s Wonderlic score, but he seems like a bright young man and I’d be surprised if he was below that. He meets the other two requirements.
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