Coming off his second straight week of extended regular season action, quarterback Matt Barkley got first-team reps on Tuesday, though he split them with Nick Foles, who passed his imPACT test and returned to practice after being sidelined for a week with a concussion. It is uncertain how long the two will split reps, but for the time being Barkley is relishing the opportunity to get work in with his teammates on offense.
"I think it helps," Barkley said. "I think anything helps at this point with timing and just reading guys' body language, seeing how the first (offensive) line operates, getting that tempo up to speed."
It has been something of a roller-coaster experience for Barkley the past two weeks, as a rookie being thrown into game action due to injury but without the benefit of practicing with the first-team offense during the week. Nevertheless, he just wants to get on the field, and now that he has had that taste of game action, he's hungry for more.
"It's a little tough," Barkley said, "but a lot of things have been different for me this year. I'm just learning to roll with it. I kind of feel like a shark that has smelled that first blood. You don't really know where it's coming from, and so you're just trying to find it. I'm going to keep swimming, keep pushing and we'll see what happens."
For eight years, through high school and college, Barkley was his team's unquestioned starter at quarterback. It has been a difficult adjustment for him to transition to the NFL and all of a sudden have to sit and learn as the third-stringer and backup. Human nature takes over in such a circumstance, and Barkley's mindset is inevitably different than it would be if he knew he was starting.
"Once you're in the game, there's not much difference," Barkley said of playing. "But I think the week of preparation, and your mindset before the game is different. As much as you want to prepare like you're the starter, when you don't get the nod, there's just something different. I think when you're preparing throughout the week when you know you're the starter, just something clicks and you take it to another level. As much as you try to mentally prepare when you're not getting those reps, it's a little harder."
Barkley stressed that while the offense's performance might have looked ugly in real time, the unit is very close to making plays. In a game of inches, even the smallest mistake can result in a missed opportunity that alters the final outcome. The Eagles offense was, by and large, making those plays the first six games, but not in the past two.
"As a team, as we looked at the offensive film, including myself, the little things are what counts, and I think that's what will set us apart in the upcoming weeks," Barkley said. "We're just inches away from making great plays, from winning games. At this level, those inches count. It might sound cliché and you hear it all the time, but it's the little details, little plays – a tipped ball here and there, a third down that you miss by a couple inches and that sets the game apart. I think we had a good day of practice, a good day of work where guys were honing in on those little things, and it should carry out for the rest of the week."
Regardless of who starts at quarterback against the Oakland Raiders, whether it is Barkley or Foles, the offense needs to make good on those little details, those inches that determine winning or losing.
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