Cup of Joe: More than lightning in a bottle?

Cup of Joe: More than lightning in a bottle?
Chicago Bears quarterback Matt Barkley (12) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Detroit lions in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, December 11, 2016. the Lions beat the Bears 20-17. (Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Written by Joe Tidei/Special to Bears Backer

Raise your hand if you thought Matt Barkley was going to struggle mightily when he took over as the starter before the Tennessee game. It’s okay to admit it, I’m guilty too.

Barkley looked bad against Green Bay earlier this year and had been on two teams in three years prior to the Bears. His statistics in four games with Philadelphia? 30-49, 300 yards, three interceptions and three fumbles.

When the Bears signed him, I thought he was nothing more than a practice player and a backup if needed. Happy to say I was 100 percent wrong. Barkley has played very well considering the circumstances.

John Fox said this about Barkley on Monday, “I believe we would be 3-0 with him as a starter if we played good around him.”

That’s a strong statement from Fox and it’s hard to see any fallacy there.

Barkley led the Bears back against the Titans, only to have Josh Bellamy drop the go-ahead touchdown with under a minute left. Barkley’s receivers also dropped 100 other passes (rough estimate), including Marquess Wilson’s botched ball in the end zone earlier in the game.

Against San Francisco, Barkley performed admirably despite the blizzard that hit Soldier Field. That was supposed to be a game where neither team would be able to throw the ball. Barkley found a way to be successful when Dowell Loggains opened things up.

Sunday’s game in Detroit was his first true test. On the road against a solid defense and a very good defensive coordinator. After a strong first drive ruined by penalties, the offense stalled, but once again, Barkley picked it up in the second half.

Down by a field goal with over two minutes left, Barkley led his team down the field and we all know the rest. Two questionable holding penalties washed out two straight first downs to Cam Meredith and Daniel Braverman. On the last play, Barkley threw an absolute dime ball that Bellamy dropped.

If any of those three plays held up, the Bears were within field goal range and at the very least, likely would’ve headed to overtime.

A quarterback needs to put his team in positions to win games. Barkley has done that and then some. This while playing without Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Zach Miller.

Barkley has shown some big-time moxie in crucial moments and that has me curious about what his upside is. The offense has functioned best when Barkley has been given the freedom to be aggressive as a passer.

I’d like to see Loggains and Fox take the handcuffs off and let the kid play. I talked about this during the game but I believe Barkley is best fit in a pro-style offense or at least more pro-style concepts. These spread concepts and packaged plays don’t make use of what his strengths are. He wants to get the ball down field.

Barkley operated a pro-style offense at USC and did extremely well. He can move through progressions, make throws, understands ball placement and knows where the ball is supposed to go. He’s not the most accurate passer though and would also benefit from some bigger targets. Jeffery returns from suspension next week and I’m anxious to see how they play together. Barkley also isn’t very mobile and needs a strong offensive line.

One thing I do like is that he’s willing to take risks; he almost had two passes picked off on Sunday, but give me that over a game manager.

He’s a completely different quarterback than Brian Hoyer who refused to take chances if a receiver was covered. Barkley will throw it up to his guy and trust he’ll make a play, which gives me hope that he’ll look for Jeffery often.

I’m not at all saying the Bears found their franchise QB. It’s only been a three-game sample size, however, Fox said this about the young safety’s on his roster, “the players choose who gets opportunities by how they perform.”

Barkley’s play has warranted him continuing to get an opportunity, even if it’s just lightning in a bottle. I’m just not ready to call it a fluke because he’s done more for his team than they’ve done for him. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.

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Filed under: Bears News

Tags: Bears, Joe Tidei, Matt Barkley

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  • I would see what we could get for Cutler and trade him away. Sign Barkley to a decent 3 year incentive laden deal and keep Hoyer as a backup, and draft a QB for development.

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