If Barkley emerges victorious, it would be one of the bigger upsets of the summer—and as much an indictment of the players ahead of him on the depth chart as a testament to Barkley's ability.
It's generally believed that the race to start at quarterback was between veteran Michael Vick and second-year man Nick Foles. The pair split reps more or less down the middle in minicamps and OTAs.
However, new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly told reporters at training camp that Barkley is still very much in the mix, according to Philadelphia's website.
Everybody's got a chance. Everybody that's in camp is going to get an opportunity to show us what their resume is and your resume is what you put on tape every single day. If someone continues to make plays and another guy continues not to make plays then that guy's going to move up and the other guy's going to move down. There's nothing set in stone. I would say our depth chart's written in sound right now.
General manager Howie Roseman echoed those sentiments, according to Reuben Frank of CSN Philadelphia.
We try to keep an open mind about everyone on our roster. You have to be open to surprises. You can’t just watch the tape looking for certain guys because you may miss something. You may miss a guy who’s really performing at a high level who steps up to the competition, so those are things you have to be aware of. How everyone’s playing. Not just the guys who are perceived to be part of the competition.
On some level, it shouldn't really come as a surprise that Barkley hasn't been summarily dismissed as the potential starter.
After all, Barkley was a player whom the Eagles were reportedly very high on, a quarterback who Arizona Cardinals (and former USC) signal-caller Carson Palmer believes was "an absolute steal" for the Eagles in the fourth round of April's NFL draft, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com. Had Barkley declared for the NFL draft after his junior season, he all but certainly would have been a first-round pick.
Barkley was also "fairly impressive" in OTAs, according to Len Pasquarelli of The National Football Post, who writes that "there remain some talent evaluators who still suggest that Barkley could be the best quarterback, over the long haul, from the 2013 class."
CSN's Frank also points out another fact that might potentially work in Barkley's favor.
Keep in mind that Chip Kelly inherited Michael Vick, who is 10-15 in his last 25 starts, and Nick Foles, who was 1-6 last year. They were here when he got here, and the fact that he hasn’t picked one or the other to be the 2013 starter really tells you that he’s not particularly in love with either one. If he was, they’d already be the starter. Matt Barkley was hand-picked by Kelly. He’s the only one of the three that he wanted to be here.
However, Frank concedes that Barkley is a "long shot" to open the season as the starter, which is true for a number of reasons.
The first is simple math. For Barkley to claim the starting job, he'd need both Foles and Vick to falter in camp. That might be easier if one of the two falls by the wayside early in the competition, but right now Barkley's just not seeing enough first-team reps.
Vick is reportedly having some issues with Kelly's offense according to Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphis Inquirer, but Foles has performed well. In fact, if you compare Foles' numbers at Arizona in 2011 to Barkley's at USC that year (against similar competition), an interesting fact emerges.
For as highly touted as Barkley was that year, Foles' numbers hold their own. If Foles does the same in camp, then he's not relinquishing the gig.
Also, for as pumped as the Eagles proclaim to be about Barkley, they weren't high enough on the youngster to draft him before the fourth round. If they were as head-over-heels about the kid before the draft as they proclaim to be after, why not select him earlier?
Then there's the matter of arm strength. Barkley may well be adept at reading defenses and getting the ball out quickly (two keys in Kelly's breakneck offensive scheme), but he doesn't have the arm of Foles or Vick. That may not be the primary consideration for Kelly, but it's a consideration nonetheless.
Granted, all this isn't to say that Barkley can't come out on top. Kelly has made it clear that he's going to take his time deciding on a starter. For once, preseason games, where Kelly can watch the trio of passers run his offense in real time, are going to actually carry a little weight.
In fact, they could carry a lot. After all, not many people entering the exhibition season last year thought that Russell Wilson would be the Week 1 starter for the Seattle Seahawks.
Look how that turned out.
With that said, though, the success of Wilson and the other rookie quarterbacks last year has created an air of expectation in which all newcomers are supposed to be ready to make an immediate impact.
With Barkley, that's not likely to happen. It's no knock on Barkley as a player, and he may well wind up as the quarterback of the future in Philly.
However, there are probably just too many things that would have to break in Barkley's favor for him to lay claim to that spot this year.