Matt Barkley: Is Newest Eagles Addition Philadelphia's QB of the Future?

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Matt Barkley: Is Newest Eagles Addition Philadelphia's QB of the Future?
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When the Andy Reid era began in Philadelphia, he had the luxury of selecting a number of highly-talented quarterbacks with the second overall pick. He picked Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb, although Akili Smith, Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown were also on the board (and he probably could have traded up to grab Tim Couch with the No. 1 overall pick, if he had wanted). 

Reid made the correct decision, as McNabb earned six Pro Bowl selections and emerged as the best quarterback in franchise history.

New Eagles head coach Chip Kelly didn't exactly have the luxury of picking a stud near the top of the first round, as most experts agreed that no quarterback was worth the fourth overall pick. 

So Kelly waited, picking an offensive tackle in the first round and grabbing a tight end and a defensive tackle in the second and third rounds. Then the fourth round came, and Kelly knew he had to make a move for a quarterback.

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By trading up to the first pick in the fourth round, Kelly grabbed USC quarterback Matt Barkley, who is definitely one of the more interesting quarterback prospects in the draft class. 

Barkley had considered declaring for the NFL draft following his junior year. He likely would have been one of the top three picks, along with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. 

But he returned to school, where expectations were through the roof that USC would have a national championship season and Barkley would be a Heisman Trophy candidate. That was far from the case, as USC stumbled to a 7-5 record and Barkley threw 15 interceptions, including multiple interceptions in each of his last four games. He was also plagued from a shoulder injury near the end of the year.

His draft fall must rank among the worst in NFL history. This isn't a Brady Quinn or an Aaron Rodgers slipping to the end of the first round. This is a former Heisman Trophy candidate, a projected top-five pick, falling to the fourth round. That's unprecedented. 

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Kelly says that Barkley will be given every opportunity to compete for the starting job in training camp and the preseason. Veteran Michael Vick is the favorite to enter the season as the starter, despite a brutal 2012 season. Last year's rookie Nick Foles, who started six games but played with an offense that consisted primarily of backups, is the likely No. 2 quarterback, with Barkley the favorite as the third quarterback, and Dennis Dixon a viable practice squad option. 

At least that's how it looks on paper. But it never works out that way.

For starters, expect Kelly to look to trade Vick or Foles, probably Foles. That makes Barkley the backup heading into the season. 

But I really wouldn't be surprised to see Barkley earn the starting job in training camp and the preseason, a la Russell Wilson in 2012, who shocked the football world by taking the starting job over newly-acquired Matt Flynn and veteran Tarvaris Jackson. 

Matt Barkley is the first quarterback specifically picked by Chip Kelly. Kelly didn't pick Vick or Foles. He has no loyalty to them. He doesn't owe them opportunities to start. 

Despite playing in a relatively weak NFC East, the Eagles are not expected to be a playoff team or even finish with a winning record in 2013. There's pressure on the Eagles to show improvement, which really shouldn't be too hard considering the way the Eagles finished the 2012 season (losses in 11 of their final 12 games). 

Improvement is not going to come with Vick, who is clearly on the decline. It may come with Foles, but I don't see Foles being on the Week 1 roster. I think he'll be traded before the start of the season. 

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In this generation, teams like to see what their rookie quarterbacks can do immediately. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson all started from Week 1 last year. All played well, with the exception of Weeden. Three of the five were incredible. 

Whether Barkley starts in Week 1 or not, he clearly will be given an opportunity to be the franchise quarterback. Ignore his lack of mobility. Kelly is an adaptor, and he's got to love Barkley's intelligence and decision-making at the line of scrimmage, not to mention his accuracy, poise and mental toughness. 

Barkley will be given every opportunity to succeed, too.

He has a pair of very talented running backs in LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown. He has DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant at wide receiver, with Brent Celek, Zach Ertz and James Casey lining up at tight end. And on the line, he has Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson. 

On paper, that's a top 10 or 12 set of offensive skill position players, not including the quarterback. Don't forget, Barkley will also have a very talented offensive mind to help him succeed.

Kelly hasn't coached a down yet in the NFL, but his offense is respected enough that Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, modeled his 2012 Patriots' offense after Kelly's hurry-up style. 

Without watching Barkley play, it's impossible to predict how he'll do do in the NFL. But I have confidence knowing that Barkley is surrounded by great talent and great coaching. 

The Eagles may have gotten themselves a steal, and a future franchise quarterback, on Day 3 of the draft. 

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