Matt Barkley did not create a backup quarterback controversy in his first start in an Eagles uniform. But if the 37-7 win over the New York Jets in the preseason finale Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field was an opportunity for the Eagles to measure the progress of the 2013 fourth-round pick, they can be encouraged by his improvement.
The Eagles sat almost every starter and a few top reserves, leaving the game mostly for determining the final spots on the 53-man roster before it must be set Saturday at 4 p.m.
"[Friday] is not a real good day, and Saturday's not a real good day," coach Chip Kelly said. "You've got to tell 22 guys they're not going to make the team."
The draw of Thursday's game was measuring Barkley's progress and determining the outcome of the competition at kicker.
Cody Parkey made a strong case to be the kicker after connecting on three field goals, including a 53-yarder and a 54-yarder. Incumbent Alex Henery, who did not attempt a field goal, entered the game 1 of 3 in the preseason with a career long of 51 yards.
Barkley received the most playing time in his two preseasons in Philadelphia. He finished 21 of 33 for 253 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for a score. Barkley finished the preseason 41 of 65 (63.1 percent) for 495 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. It was a marked improvement from a year ago, when Barkley completed only 50.8 percent of his passes and averaged 4.9 yards per attempt.
"He's not a rookie anymore," Kelly said. "He made some really good decisions in terms of putting the football on people. He's way ahead of where he was last year at this time."
When Barkley arrived in Philadelphia, he thought he would compete with Nick Foles and Michael Vick for the starting job. The competition turned out to be between Vick and Foles. All three were at the Linc. Foles remained on the sideline with the Eagles starters. Vick took one snap for the Jets before coach Rex Ryan called a timeout and pulled him from the game so he could be saluted by the fans in the half-filled stadium.
Vick received a standing ovation. He tipped his cap.
Barkley stayed in the game into the fourth quarter. When he first drove the team near the goal line, an apparent miscommunication with Quron Pratt resulted in an interception in the end zone.
Barkley rebounded on his next drive, connecting with Arrelious Benn for a 43-yard score. Benn, a former Tampa Bay second-round pick trying to compel the Eagles to keep him, caught his second touchdown pass of the preseason.
The team's top receiver was Jeff Maehl, who finished with four catches for 84 yards in his bid to remain on the roster.
All the scoring in the second quarter came from Parkey, who added his third field goal in the third period. Barkley's rushing touchdown was a 7-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to punctuate his performance.
"I think just the fact that you know you're going to be in, you know you're going to be playing, helps establish a rhythm," Barkley said. "I feel like I'm progressing, which is great. You always want to get better, and I feel like I have. Knowledge of the offense, just general quarterbacking, movement in the pocket, arm feels a lot better."
Fourth-string quarterback G.J. Kinne relieved Barkley and led the Eagles on two touchdown drives. The first score was a 21-yard pass to Trey Burton. The second was a 46-yard rush by Damaris Johnson, who had a strong preseason.
Johnson played running back because Matthew Tucker (shoulder) and Kenjon Barner (ankle) both left the game with injuries. Chris Polk (hamstring) was sidelined, and LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles sat with the starters. That meant the only healthy running back by the second half was Henry Josey, who continued to make the most of the opportunity. Josey finished with 22 carries for 121 yards, which does not include a 33-yard run that was nullified by a penalty. He entered the game averaging 8.4 yards per carry.
On defense, outside linebackers Travis Long and Bryan Braman recorded sacks. Safety Earl Wolff and defensive lineman Taylor Hart forced fumbles.
The Eagles finished 2-2 in the preseason. What matters is the season that begins when the Eagles host the Jacksonville Jaguars in 10 days.
"I'm not a prediction guy," Kelly said, "but I feel we're heading in the right direction."