Expectations are sky-high in 2020 for the Buffalo Bills, as they seem to have all the pieces to take the division for the first time in the 21st century. Only a few things could potentially derail the Bills season, one of which would be an injury to quarterback Josh Allen. Unfortunately, Allen has gotten dinged up throughout his young career. In his rookie season in 2018, he missed four games due to an elbow injury. In 2019 he left a game against the Patriots in week four early due to a concussion. So if Allen were to get hurt (obviously everyone hopes he never will) do you trust Matt Barkley? This week’s Thursday Thought: Is Matt Barkley a trustworthy backup?
Matt Barkley has had an interesting NFL career. After receiving a plethora of hype in college about his potential at the next level, Barkley was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He’d play very little in two years, wouldn’t appear in 2015 or 2017 after spending some time at quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Then in a pinch in 2018, the Bills signed him and named him the starter in the same week.
Bills fans know the rest of this story. Barkley played a solid game, throwing for over 230 yards and two touchdowns as the Bills dismantled the Jets. He then became a mentor for Allen to lean on and learn from over the next two seasons.
He would appear in two games in 2019 where his play was nothing to be inspired by. He’d throw for 359 yards, three interceptions, with no touchdowns along with a completion percentage just south of 53 percent. The idea that Barkley, as beloved as his by players, coaches, and fans, was not the best option behind Allen began to swirl. With idea became even more legitimate with the Bills drafting Georgia Quarterback Jake Fromm in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
With the background information out of the way, it’s important to understand what Matt Barkley is and isn’t. He is a smart veteran quarterback, who has played a lot of football in his career in college and the pros. He isn’t a solid starting quarterback. He is someone who wins with anticipation and accuracy. He isn’t a strong-armed gunslinger. He is someone who brings a great personality to the locker room. He isn’t the alpha leader of the team.
The deal with Barkley is simple. If you need to ride him out for a game, with the defense and playmakers around him he can get it done. Barkley could even win a game or two if he had to. However, if Allen were out for say six games, would Barkley be able to win half of them? Would defenses figure him out easily?
We likely won’t know the answers to these questions unless Barkley has to play a significant amount this season. However, on paper, he looks to be a fine backup quarterback. Could they have a better backup? Sure. You could also have a lot worse than Barkley.
Overall, Barkley will be a good backup quarterback if he never sees the field. A healthy Josh Allen for all 16 games this season is really what matters most. Not who’s behind him on the depth chart. Let’s just hope that Barkley will be wearing a baseball cap and holding a clipboard every gameday.
Mitch Broder is a contributor for The Buffalo Fanatics. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mitchell_broder