Seth's Take: Matt Barkley has an uphill battle. He is the third quarterback on a team that has two known quantities in Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.
His play at times makes you think he just doesn't have what it takes to be the heir apparent in a Bruce Arians led offense.
Then, you see plays that make you wonder, why on earth can't he make this play consistently?
It's these thoughts that make your realize there is a reason Barkley was taken in fourth round and then traded for pennies by the Philadelphia Eagles.
While his background at USC may say "could have been the first overall pick" his play shows he was taken about where his ability dictates.
After watching and focusing on Barkley for a prolonged period in training camp and in his game this Friday, the big takeaway from his play is his the difference between his decision-making when the play is pre-determined or the receiver is open versus when he is under pressure or his receivers are covered.
This is the difference between a Quarterback who makes receivers great by throwing them open versus a QB who is reliant on his receivers. Let us take a quick look at Barkley's first throw, a simple screen:
The play is pre-determined, where Barkley doesn't have to think, and he makes a quick decision and has his safety valve there. The theme of a safety valve will be a big one throughout this study. Notice also there's a good deal of touch on the ball, which is one of Barkley's strengths.
At camp I noticed that, in drills and on passes under ten yards, Barkley's accuracy was actually BETTER than Drew Stanton's for the most part. Stanton doesn't have as much touch and can rip it and often overthrow, like he did on his INT versus the Raiders.
Another throw highlighting the way Barkley reads a defense and delivers the ball on a shorter pass to the TE, Momah. There are a lot of quarterbacks who struggle making multiple reads, but Barkley, when protected, is able to find his man. The difference is in reading coverage and transitioning to SEEING coverage.
This throw here from Barkley is a staple of the Bruce Arians offense: deep drop, step up in the pocket and toss a dart to hit the receiver in stride. And Barkley executes it, although while staring down his man, which almost allows the DB to make a play on the ball. He throws again to Jaxon Shipley (who we'll also see later) and shows impressive velocity.
One big takeaway I had from camp was that Barkley didn't seem to really demonstrate a "noodle arm" like what had been said of him when he was able to plant his feet. I think that part of the problem with his high turnover ratio in the NFL was that lingering shoulder injury from college, as a look into his throws with the Eagles showed a slower ball with more hangtime.
Either way, these are some of the better plays you'll see from Barkley: decisive, non-vertical routes where he hits his man and gives room for yards after the catch. Then there's the other side:
Here once again Barkley stares down his target and locks onto Shipley, and while he's being rushed from the backside, there's no impact on the ball itself, and he never sees the crossing defensive back.
I'm not totally sure if Barkley intended this to be a back-shoulder throw to the goal-line or just to throw it up and hope that Shipley caught it.
Look at his feet and base: they're torqued further to the left side of his body after the throw is complete. The motion on his other throws has his footwork clean and straight, facing the wide receiver. Here, Barkley is pulling the ball and it ends up behind Shipley versus leading him. Pass should have been higher and in the endzone for Shipley to make a play on it.
To sum up:
Barkley is a quarterback who is more made by his receivers than he makes them. Some quarterbacks have strengths that coaches can work around and win, such as Drew Stanton's deep passing game and mobility. Barkley's biggest strength is that when protected, he can deliver the football where it needs to go for the most part. But once he's under pressure or the wide receiver appears to be covered, he fades.
Arians talked earlier in camp about how Barkley was still struggling with "hot routes", which are fast, quick routes you go to when being blitzed. The fact that Barkley hasn't been picking these up means that his decision-making struggles when he's forced into making fast reads under pressure. Kurt Warner was a master at this. In short, where Barkley lacks is in taking the next step and making his decisions when under pressure. And if you can pressure a quarterback and they don't have the tools or skillset to combat the blitz, you won't be seeing them as much more than a backup long-term.