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While Vick and Foles battle, Barkley progresses
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It was never a three-way race.

The Eagles' QB competition between Michael Vick and Nick Foles remains tight. Chip Kelly isn't ready to declare a winner, even if someone else is.

Matt Barkley, meanwhile, has been racing against himself, and after Thursday's 14-9 preseason victory over Carolina at the Linc, he said he's ahead of where he was last week.

"I thought I did well -- a lot better than last week," Barkley said.

The numbers didn't necessarily reflect it -- Barkley's passer rating was better against New England (78.4) than it was Thursday against Carolina (71.1) -- but against the Panthers he looked crisp and confident.

"I felt more comfortable out there," he said. "I feel like I started on a better note."

Indeed Barkley's best series was his first, when he started the second half decisive and efficient. He went 5-for-6 passing for 53 yards and drove the Eagles to the Carolina 26, but the series ended when Alex Henery missed a 44-yard field goal. The lone incompletion came on the first play, when his pass to running back Chris Polk needed more zip, and Polk was decked as the ball arrived and couldn't make the catch.

Barkley finished 8-for-14 for 72 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Unlike last week, when he threw a TD, he didn't lead a scoring drive.

"I thought Matt makes very quick decisions," head coach Chip Kelly said. "When the ball is out, he did a really good job of moving the football team. ... I thought Matt moved us.  [He] throws an accurate ball, a catchable ball, and he's a really good decision-maker."

Barkley rarely held the ball for very long and wasn't sacked. Twice on the first drive he avoided the blitz with quick throws to receivers near the sideline. Damaris Johnson gained 15 on one catch-and-run and was stopped for a loss of four on the left sideline three plays later.

"Those are just hots -- you have to get the ball out," Barkley said. "It's either him or nobody. We were just trying to get yards if we could.

"They were playing a pretty good zone with some tight corners, so you had to kind of fit it in different windows, but I felt comfortable."

Barkley broke a variety of windows.

After a strike to wideout Greg Salas gained 14, Barkley made his best throw, dropping a pretty pass over three Panthers to tight end Zach Ertz for 21 yards.

"It was a corner route," Barkley said. "They were playing pretty tight and the safety pretty deep. So [Ertz] just found the open window and made the catch."

It was one of two receptions for the second-round pick, who also caught a 15-yarder from Foles. Ertz caught both passes in which he was the intended receiver.

"Matt's making the most of his opportunities," Ertz said. "He's a ballplayer. He's a heck of a quarterback. He played four great years at USC. He's doing his thing out there. [We] had a nice little connection on that one. He's doing well."

After the first drive, Barkley didn't sniff the red zone again. He missed Salas over the middle to start the second series, then had a pretty 36-yard completion to tight end Derek Carrier erased by an illegal formation penalty. Carrier was wide open on the next play but dropped the pass.

The third series was hampered by a false start on guard Matt Tennant and ended when Barkley threw behind Carrier on 3rd-and-7.

"I think sometimes it's tough to evaluate the quarterback when it's not his fault that we line up in an illegal formation," Kelly said, "or someone's jumping offsides and putting us behind in the count."

Barkley's fourth and final drive was a three-and-out. After floating a nice pass to lead Clay Harbor, who dove and lost the handle while falling to the ground, Barkley rolled right and found Johnson for three yards on third-and-10.

"It just kind of hurts when you stall drives with penalties or turnovers," Barkley said. "Coach Kelly told us that as a team -- we beat ourselves out there. We got the victory -- it's good to get a win -- but some of those drives could have ended up with scores."