GLENDALE, Ariz. — No doubt Matt Barkley’s night Friday against the Oakland Raiders could have gone better.
In his first game action of any kind in an Arizona Cardinals uniform, the former fourth-round pick completed just eight of 24 passes for 121 yards with one interception in Arizona’s 31-10 loss.
Given that he’s battling for a roster spot as the team’s third quarterback, he was understandably a topic after the game, though he did not stick around the locker room long to talk to the media.
But before you think the 25-year-old bolted quickly in order to avoid answering for his performance, know that instead, he was rushing on out of there to be with his wife, who was in labor and about to give birth to their second child.
Jackson Barkley was born Saturday, and as the QB said, both baby and mom are healthy and doing well.
The same was not said of his performance Friday.
“Good and bad and ugly,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said after the game. “He had some really nice throws; forgot to send a motion on three plays in the formations for his receivers, so we didn’t have a play. But other than that, he did make some nice — he can make every throw, it’s just some of those little things he’s got to clean up.”
Arians seemed especially peeved over the formation troubles, which at this point should not be an issue for Barkley. Acquired in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick at the end of last preseason, he now has roughly a year with the organization and, in theory, should have a pretty good understanding of the team’s offense and situational football. His game stats did nothing to help his night look better, either.
“I thought I had a lot of good moments and a few not good moments,” he said Sunday morning. “A lot to learn from. I think just being out here in this system for the first time in a game scenario, I came away with a lot.
“I think one of the biggest things is just the timing with the receivers, the timing with my pre-snap ritual with the play-clock and the protections and everything, just getting that down smooth — because we don’t practice with a play clock — so just making sure that, and that all should come naturally so just with a different system it just takes a little bit of time.”
Though he has been with the team for nearly a year now, most of Barkley’s work last season was running the scout team offense, meaning he was asked to replicate the opponent’s scheme and not run Arizona’s. His first real chance to run his actual team’s offense came in OTAs, and he noted they’ve received “more and more looks in camp.”
He felt prepared for Friday, however, and understands that while he and his offense showed flashes, they simply did not do as well as necessary.
Barkley’s rough outing likely did him no favors in his effort to claim the team’s third quarterback spot. He’s currently locked in a battle with undrafted rookie Jake Coker, though it’s entirely possible neither will make the Week 1 53-man roster.
Arians has discussed the possibility of the team keeping just two quarterbacks, though a third would still be with the organization as part of the practice squad, for which both Barkley and Coker are eligible.
The former USC Trojan understands the situation he finds himself in, knowing he will have precious few opportunities to prove he can effectively run the team’s offense this preseason.
“When there’s nothing you can do about that, about how many reps you get or whatever, you kind of have no choice but to make the most of what you do get,” he said. “So just control what you can control, and that’s what I’m focused on from here on out.”
Barkley’s desire to impress the coaches did not necessarily manifest itself in Sunday morning’s practice, as Arians said he was worse than he was Friday night.
“He had a baby yesterday so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt,” he said, with a smile.
The coach once again compared Barkley to a yo-yo, an analogy meant to describe how his play is up and down depending on the outing. The key for any QB is consistency, of course, and Barkley says the way to stop fluctuating and start stacking good days is to take everything one play at a time.
“Just making sure that I’m focused on my reads, my sights, protections on that play, and that play alone,” he said.
Barkley has plenty to focus on now, with his career on the field and life off it right now competing for his attention. Not surprisingly, his newborn is definitely on his mind, and there has not been much time for sleep or relaxation.
“It was a late night — after the game we were up all night at the hospital and everything, and then a little sleep last night because of curfew, but not a whole lot,” the father of two young boys said. “Exciting weekend, though, nonetheless.”
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