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One Final Effort For Quarterbacks

Posted Sep 3, 2015

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The preseason finale didn’t mean much to the team’s locked-in starters, but for bubble players like Matt Barkley and Tim Tebow, the game meant everything. It served as the quarterbacks' final opportunity to impress the coaching staff prior to this weekend’s roster cutdown to 53 players.

The two quarterbacks alternated quarters on Thursday, giving each of them a chance to play with the same personnel. Barkley was the first one up to the plate, and he struggled out of the gate. His second pass of the game, a deep ball intended for Josh Huff, was intercepted by Darrin Walls.

Overall, Barkley finished the first quarter 3-of-6 passing, good for 38 yards.

“You never want to get off to start like that,” Barkley said after the game.

The third quarter for Barkley again didn’t go as planned, though he was only on the field for one series. A 14-play drive from the Jets gave Barkley just one possession to work with. The Eagles picked up just one first down on the drive before punting, finishing Barkley’s night.

In total, he completed 4-of-9 attempts for 45 yards with an interception. Now, his fate as an Eagle lies with the coaching staff, and the former fourth-round pick is hoping that his body of work will overshadow some less-than-stellar game performances.

“I think (the preseason games) are a small sampling,” Barkley said. “What I have shown in practices, I think I’ve done a good job and improved in a lot of areas. I’m happy with how I played throughout camp.”

While Barkley struggled to find a rhythm, Tebow was able to lead the offense on a pair of touchdown drives. After initially leading the Eagles to a field goal, Tebow’s second drive was capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass to Rasheed Bailey just before halftime.

“Rasheed got a step on (the cornerback), so I just gave him a shot,” Tebow said. “He makes a lot of plays. He’s making plays every single day, and in the games he’s come up with big plays again.”

Returning to the field in the fourth quarter, Tebow’s first possession ended on a fourth-down interception as the left-handed quarterback looked to make something happen in desperation. Tebow once again drove the Eagles deep into Jets’ territory on the next drive. On a fourth-down play from the 9-yard line, Tebow scrambled to his left and found Freddie Martino for an incredible toe-dragging touchdown.

Tebow finished his night 11-of-17 passing for 189 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It was his best performance to date as an Eagle in his most crucial test yet on his road back to the NFL after two years away from the game.

“I just wanted to go out there and play my best and compete with a bunch of great teammates and a bunch of great coaches and be the best that I could be,” Tebow said after the game. “I think I’m getting more and more comfortable with the offense. I’m getting into more of a rhythm, especially getting the first first-down, which is big in this offense.

“The offensive line was doing a great job up front, receivers came down with some great catches. We were trying to get the running game going and just capitalize when we get into the red zone. We had two opportunities down there that I wish we could have capitalized on.”

The Eagles’ roster needs to be trimmed to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. All along, Barkley and Tebow have known that they’d be competing against one another, but they also know that the final decision is something that’s out of their hands.

“I’m just going to go home to my family,” Barkley said on his next 24 hours. “They’re the most important thing in my life. I love this game, but one day it will be over. Hopefully, it’s a long time from now, but I’ll go home to see my wife and my son and right now. That’s all that matters.”

“I’ve said it a lot of times, but I genuinely mean that I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control,” Tebow said. “It’s a blessing to be able to play the game that I love. I had a lot of fun out there. I had a blast.

“Sometimes when things are taken away, you realize how much you really love it, and sometimes you love it more after that. So it’s not necessarily coming back, but the time away that makes you love it more.”

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