Tebow, Barkley To Square Off For Third QB Spot

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

If you ask Tim Tebow about Sunday’s preseason opener against the Colts, his eyes light up. He flashes that million-dollar smile and talks about how excited he is to play the game he’s loved since he was a child. Mention the same game to Matt Barkley, and you’ll get a more business-like, measured reaction.

Their personalities (and mindsets heading in) aren’t exactly identical, and their playing styles couldn’t be more different. That contrast will be on display Sunday as the competition for the third quarterback spot ramps up.

Mark [Sanchez] will start, won’t play very much and then it will be a lot of Matt and a lot of Tim, so we’ll have a chance to see those guys in some extended play,” said Chip Kelly.

The head coach will use these exhibition games to see if a clear choice emerges. If one does not, it could come down to preference. If it’s purely about “repetitive accuracy,” Barkley is the favorite. He has shown pretty good command of the offense this summer and remains the superior thrower despite improvements by Tebow in that area.

“I think I’ve developed as a quarterback a lot over the last offseason and really the whole year-and-a-half since I first got playing time,” Barkley said. “So I feel healthy, feel strong, feel ready to go, I feel in control of this offense and I definitely want to try to get back on the field.”

Tebow, meanwhile, brings a run/pass element that Kelly might find useful.

“I think when Tim gets in there, you’ll see him run the ball a little bit,” said Kelly. “That’s part of what he ‑‑ we have the ability to call plays depending on who is in there.  You’ll see that.

“We’re not trying to hide anything.  I think people know we can run zone-read plays and the quarterback has the ability to carry the football.  I don’t think that would surprise anybody if we didn’t do that in the preseason and all of a sudden Tim had an opportunity to play during the season and we sprung it on him.”

Tebow has been waiting 23 months to get back on the field. And now that Kelly has given him a shot, he is ready to strap on the pads and play real football.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it, it’ll be a lot of fun, just playing ball,” Tebow said. “I love it. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little boy and I’ve always loved playing and it’s the best thing being out here at practice and everything, but it’s also really fun to really strap it up too.”

Barkley doesn’t come off as quite as joyous, but is equally eager to show what he can do.

“[I just want to prove] that I’m a quarterback capable of winning games in this league,” Barkley said. “I know what I can do in this league and for this team and so I want to show coach Kelly and my teammates and the fans that I can play, move the ball down the field, [make] completions and protect the ball.”

Barkley and Tebow have split the reps with the third team to this point, and each have had their moments. The most critical part of their respective tryouts, though, begins Sunday.

“The big performance for Matt and all those other guys, is when we finally get a chance to go against the Colts in the first preseason game, and then the Ravens, and then the Packers, and then the Jets,” said Kelly. “Because for any quarterback you’re still wearing a red jersey, and even when the rush comes clean, they are going to pull up and kind of get away from you. But it’s not going to be like that when we get into those preseason games.  So that will be the test for all those guys.”

Tim McManus contributed to this post.