You Got Served: All Tebow, all the time

Happy Friday, friends, and welcome to a Victory Tuesday edition of You Got Served.  Today, I’m going with less of a variety show style than usual, and I’m going to address the Broncos QB situation at length.  Across the NFL world, that’s been an all-consuming topic, and I want to bring some knowledge and context to bear in discussing it.  After that, we’ll see what we have time for.  Ready… BEGIN!!

1.  I was emailing with Lindsay Jones a couple weeks ago, around the time that she quoted Doug in the Denver Post as a counterpoint to the We Want Tebow hysteria.  I was worried that she misunderstood the nature of our site, and she and I have had occasional communication since she happened across an article at my old Wordpress site where I savaged everybody at the DP except for her, and said a few nice things about her. 

She used the term “fan-site” to describe us once or twice, and I frankly didn’t like that characterization.  MHR is a fan-site; read their header – “By Fans, For Fans.”  We’re a lot different than MHR.  There, any dumbass with a keyboard can write a FanPost, which is kind of cool, but it’s different from us.  If you add the quantity that comes from those FanPosts, and just the fact that they have 13 contributors (according to their masthead), you’re talking about a lot of different viewpoints appearing frequently, and really, whether by design or not, it’s virtually all stated from a Broncos fan perspective.  I’m a fan, and I buy tickets, and this is what I want, or think, or like.

TJ, Doc, Doug and I are all Broncos fans, but as I told Lindsay, it wouldn’t matter if we weren’t.  Our personal allegiance to the Broncos doesn’t drive much of our content at all.  We could run a good football website focused on any team, or on all teams, and the output would be the same.  Each of us would do what we do, we’d analyze what we see, and then talk about it.  We could cover the Bucs, and Doug could write Sunrise at Sea every morning, Doc could do Buc-ographies, TJ could bring you Dead Reckoning after the game, and on Tuesdays, I’d come with The 18th Letter (arrrrrrgh!).

We’re a site of independent football analysts, and even aside from football, each of us comes from professional and educational backgrounds which require strong analytical skills.  Our ability to analyze and to deliver that analysis in a coherent and entertaining way is our value proposition.

I’m talking through this because I’m a little disappointed with some of the reaction to TJ and Doug’s comments about Tim Tebow, and it makes me think that some readers don’t fully get what our site is.  The first thing is, we don’t have a company line about anything.  Ever since Tebow was drafted, the four of us have held different opinions on him and his potential.  It’s no different than watching a studio show on TV where the participants disagree on something.  Frankly, I hope that readers seeing us disagreeing in a dispassionate, respectful, and analytical way about an important topic sets a good example for logic, civility, and objectivity among themselves.

What I’m getting at, in a general way, is that this is a site that has four opinions on everything, even if some of them align at a high level.  We want it to be that way, because we think that honest analysis from each of us, with our own touches, is where the unique IAOFM value is created.  We don’t exist to reflect the opinion (or stoke the ego) of any one of us; we exist to provide outstanding comment from four unique perspectives.

TJ called it on Sunday afternoon – he was going to mostly rip Tebow on Sunday, and he’d get flamed, and then Doug was going to follow on with similar criticism on Monday, and get flamed some more, and then I’d come through on Tuesday with some more complimentary thoughts about the kid, and people would be happier.  Doc would stay above the fray.  Prescient, huh?

I was thinking about it after the game, once I read TJ’s Gut Reactions, about which one of us has taken the more difficult position.  TJ’s more likely to be judged correct in the final analysis, just because the vast majority of QBs don't end up being good enough to be true franchise QBs, instead falling somewhere between awful (JaMarcus Russell) and not-quite (Matt Ryan).   TJ’s running counter to the widely-held sentiments of the Broncos fan base, and that's difficult.  He gets beat up now, but chances are solid that he'll eventually get to say, "See, I was right."

I'm running counter to 75%-80% of the professional talking heads, and I'm fully aware that I'm taking a position that is less likely than not to happen, just given the aforementioned odds of the QB population, and yet I make a lot of Broncos fans happy with my comments on Tuesday and Friday.  I get the easier end in the comments section in the current time, but chances are solid that I'm going to have to eat some degree of crow at some point.

The truth is, neither position is an easy one.  I don't think that anybody is sitting in a very good spot on Tebow, because the whole argument is ridiculous.  Because he's so famous and beloved for what he did in college, Tebow got a ton of negative attention from the NFL's media gatekeepers (in the women's auxiliary sense that Michael Lewis talked about in the paperback edition of Moneyball), and because of that negative attention, completely unreasonable standards have been set for the guy.  Because some talking heads said that he can't throw with accuracy, the expectation is that he must throw a perfect strike on every throw, or else the avalanche of negative commentary has been validated.  Because somebody else said that he isn't a legitimate NFL QB, he has to instantly be one, or that's been validated.  Where every other young first-round QB gets to grow into the job, for Tebow, there's absolutely no benefit of the doubt, and no allowance for the fact that playing QB in the NFL is tremendously difficult, and has an enormous learning curve.  Everybody needs to declare the final answer RIGHT NOW.

You know what?  You don’t need to know the answer right now.  Anybody who acts like they know the answer right now, or that anything is nearly settled yet is playing the fool.  If you’re 100% convinced of anything, you’re a fool.  I’ve been saying that Tebow was going to win Super Bowls since he was a sophomore in college, and I’m not, and never have been 100% convinced.

This is a steep learning process that every young QB goes through, and if you buy the media narrative that Tebow has to be evaluated now, one way or another, you’re contributing to the likelihood that he’ll eventually fail.  He needs the next 10 games to grow and improve, and the Broncos need that period of time to evaluate him.  Honestly, it’s probably not quite long enough to be as sure as you’d like about Tebow, but it’s the time that he’s got, and that’s widely understood. 

Let’s all pump our brakes and remember that this is a young kid who’s now 2-2 as a starter on a team that has gone 4-14 under Kyle Orton in the last two seasons.  He’s trying hard and learning, and it just doesn’t matter how any of us want this to end up.  At the end of the season, there will just be tape of practices and games, and tape doesn’t lie.  I strongly suspect that there will still be no exact or clear-cut right answer, even then.  It will be a tough decision for the Broncos, and whatever decision it is will be made in a gray area.  We can all debate it out then.  For right now, though, while there’s football to be played, let’s let the dude (and the team) play football, and remember that nothing is settled yet, or will be soon.

2.  So, anyway, about Sunday.  It was a victory, and I have no qualifier to attach to it.  If all we’d seen was the one TD drive that made it 15-7, it would have been a perfect example of what Doug called shooting 115, and leaving happy because you parred 18.  Regardless of the unusual circumstances that Bill Barnwell correctly pointed out, Tebow (and the other 45 active players) ultimately did what it took to deliver a victory.  We know that beyond any doubt because they won the game. 

As for Tebow’s individual play, as I said in Chewing the Fat, I think that this was the guy’s fifth mixed bag in five games at QB.  I don’t think that anybody learned anything about Tebow Sunday that wasn’t already known.  He got some live-action snaps, gained some experience, and hopefully learned a lot. 

I don’t usually do this, but I decided to focus on every one of Tebow’s passing dropbacks and grade them on a couple of dimensions.  I spent two hours doing so on Monday night in painstaking detail, because the notion that Tebow played badly for 55 minutes is straight-up garbage.  He was really up and down for 55 minutes, but he did a lot of subtle good things in there, to go with some bad.  Note how many times I say “quick pressure.”

I’m interested in pocket technique, recognition of the defense and adjustment to it, decision-making, and effectiveness of the throw or run that resulted from the dropback.  If the run was the wrong decision, I’ll hit Tebow there, but we need to evaluate the quality of the run independent of the decision.  Also note that I’m ignoring penalties and counting all dropbacks, and I’m counting only dropbacks - so there are only six sacks here, since a tackle for loss on a designed QB Draw is not really a sack.

Here’s the grading scale:

Grade Meaning
5 Excellent
4 Good
3 Neutral
2 Deficient
1 Atrocious

Here are the snap-by-snap observations, with notes and grades:

DB Poss D&D Outcome Yards Notes Pckt Rec Dec Eff
1 1 2 & 7 Incomplete 0 Missed INT & D. Thomas high due to quick pressure. Should have taken shovel pass to Rosario underneath pressure. 2 2 1 1
2 2 1 & 10 Run 13 Quick pressure with run daylight. Nice pump fake at top of drop, and elusiveness on run. No hit taken. 3 4 4 4
3 2 2 & 11 Run 1 Shovel action left with Fells. Bad job by Fells creating space, & bad overall timing. Run for short gain was best outcome on well-defensed play. 3 3 3 3
4 2 3 & 10 Complete 7 Good dropback and pocket presence under quick front-side pressure (Wake). Underneath throw was all that was there, and throw was good. 4 4 4 4
5 3 2 & 12 Complete 1 Nice execution of double screen to Moreno. Well-defensed by Miami, but Tebow did his part. 4 3 3 4
6 3 3 & 11 Sack -4 Bad camera angle, but Tebow saw nothing downfield on long routes. Looked like coverage sack. Bad spin move in pocket by Tebow to get nowhere. 3-man rush against 5 protecting. 1 3 2 1
7 4 2 & 6 Complete 16 Play action, 5-step drop, initial read was to the right. Tebow felt quick pressure, rolled slight left and faded away, and showed outstanding touch and accuracy on moving throw to Larsen. No panic, excellent technique. Tom Brady would have been proud to make this play. 5 5 5 5
8 5 2 & 10 Drop 0 Play action, 5-step drop. Initial read not there, Tebow a little frenetic in pocket at first. Settled in nicely, and threw a pretty good ball that Eddie Royal should have caught on a 15-yard out. All Broncos covered, but Tebow "threw Royal open" on sideline, and gave him a chance. 4 4 5 4
9 5 3 & 10 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, Tebow stood tall and got roughed, but didn't recognize Safety blitz, or account for him in protection. Broncos had no outlet man anyway. Throw nearly intercepted due to hit by Y. Bell, not throw itself. Impossible to tell where throw was going due to tight camera, so impossible to grade decision. 4 1 3 3
10 6 1 & 10 Incomplete 0 Screen to Moreno on left side. Pass horribly overthrown. Bad decision to even throw the ball, because the timing was disrupted by Moreno being held up by a defender, and lineman being downfield. Tebow needs to know that he has to run when the timing is off. 3 3 1 1
11 6 2 & 10 Complete 5 Pass to Decker on crossing route left. Good pocket awareness despite muddy pocket, and nice timing and accuracy. Negated by holding penalty. 4 4 4 4
12 6 2 & 20 Run 21 4-man rush, bad protection, good coverage downfield. Rush got to Tebow in 4 seconds, Tebow escaped a sack at the goal line, broke a downfield tackle, and got a first down in a vacated middle of the field. 3 5 5 5
13 6 1 & 10 Sack -8 Initial protection solid, Kuper missed seeing Y. Bell delay-blitz and never touched anybody. Tebow missed him too. Eyes were downfield when he was sacked at 3 seconds, which is good. Not really Tebow's fault. 3 2 3 3
14 6 2 & 18 Run 4 Nothing there downfield, no pressure. Tebow was a bit too hesitant even after crossing LOS, because he continued to look downfield for a throw. Run could have been better if he'd been more decisive. 4 4 4 3
15 7 1 & 10 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, 2 HBs, Play Action, then fake option look to left. Tebow threw deep to D. Thomas. Missed by 15 yards to sideline from where DT was. Had to be misread by one or the other on the route, and my instinct says it was DT's mistake. Tebow had Royal shorter wide open and didn't see him. 3 3 2 2
16 7 3 & 4 Sack -5 Shotgun, 4-man rush. Quick pressure from Wake. Tebow initially escaped, but ran into interior traffic, and Wake eventually got him. No apparent play-side outlet was present. 4 4 3 3
17 9 1 & 10 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, double play action (self), Tebow recognized single coverage outside left on D. Thomas, but made a bad throw out of bounds. 4 4 4 1
18 9 3 & 8 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, play action, Tebow recognized delayed blitz by Bell, who knocked Moreno into Tebow's lap. There was also front-side pressure against Walton. Tebow got the ball out quickly, but he overthrew Decker by 5 yards when he was wide open. Powerful throw off back foot. 4 5 5 1
19 10 1 & 10 Throwaway 0 Shotgun, 5-man rush, quick pressure. Tebow flushed and threw the ball away out of bounds. Didn't seem to recognize blitz presnap, and missed open receiver in the middle of the field. 4 2 2 3
20 10 3 & 11 Incomplete 0 Tebow recognized the blitz, and stood tall against quick and overwhelming front-side pressure. Threw a solid ball to deep outside on right that Royal could have caught if he'd seen it one step sooner. Royal needs to recognize blitz just as much as Tebow does. Again, all routes were run deep downfield. 5 5 5 4
21 11 1 & 10 Drop 0 Shotgun, good protection, 5-yard quick out thrown perfectly on time, and on D. Thomas's hands. Drop. 4 4 4 5
22 11 2 & 10 Complete 16 Shotgun, good protection, 5-yard clearout crossing route to Decker. Throw had perfect accuracy and timing. 4 4 4 5
23 11 1 & 10 Throwaway 0 Shotgun, 4-man rush, solid initial protection, no running lanes. Downfield coverage excellent. Throwaway out of bounds. Tebow missed seeing Fells wide open on left sideline as he threw it out of bounds. 4 2 3 3
24 11 2 & 10 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, coverage good. Tebow held ball, pumped, moved left, and threw across his body to Fells incomplete, low and away. 2 4 4 2
25 11 3 & 10 Sack -5 Quick backside pressure by Wake met Tebow at the top of his drop. Tebow initially escaped for a couple steps, but Wake held on for sack. 3 3 3 3
26 12 1 & 10 Complete 15 Shotgun, 4-man rush, 14-yard deep out to Thomas. Good timing, throw power, and accuracy. An NFL throw that not every QB can make so well. 4 4 4 5
27 12 1 & 10 Complete 9 Shotgun, 4-man rush, 2-man under. Circle route to Moreno, well thrown and well-timed. Excellent decision. 4 4 5 4
28 12 2 & 1 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, 4-man rush, subpar protection, bad route spacing with 1 man covering Royal and Moreno in same spot. Tebow frenetic feet, got it away as he got drilled by 2 men. 1 2 2 3
29 12 1 & 10 Complete 42 Shotgun, 4-man rush, 1 spy, 20-yard crossing route to M. Willis on step-up. Excellent accuracy, throw power and timing. Another NFL throw. 4 5 5 5
30 12 1 & 10 Sack -6 Shotgun, mistimed snap by Walton that Tebow wasn't ready for. Quick pressure on blitz around both edges. Looked like Tebow was accounting for blitz and changing protection when snap came. Not Tebow's fault in the least. 3 4 3 3
31 12 2 & 26 Run 13 Shotgun, Tebow hung in pocket for 5.5 seconds before scrambling. Made a Dolphin miss in open field, and gave Broncos a manageable 3rd & 3. 4 4 5 5
32 12 3 & 3 TD 5 Shotgun, 7-man blitz, Tebow escaped free runner (Wake) with a great move, and made a good throw on a scramble. 5 5 5 5
33 13 1 & 10 Complete 7 Shotgun, 4-man rush, quick inside pressure. Tebow scrambled, and hit D. Thomas short on the right sideline. Good throw, good decision. 4 4 4 4
34 13 1 & 10 Incomplete 0 Shotgun, frenetic feet on quick pressure. 4 rush, 1 spy who eventually came to pressure. Incomplete pass to sideline that had a small chance of being caught, but was basically a throwaway on a scramble. Good decision on 1st down. 2 3 4 3
35 13 2 & 10 Complete 8 3-man rush, 1 spy, 2 man under. Nice throw over spy (6-foot-6 J. Taylor) to shallow crossing Royal. Downfield coverage good. Another good decision. 4 4 4 5
36 13 3 & 2 Complete 5 Shotgun, no pressure, excellent throw across field on 5-yard quick out. 5 4 4 5
37 13 1 & 10 Drop 0 Shotgun, 10-yard out to Willis. Throw slightly high, but excellent velocity and depth, and plenty catchable. Willis dropped the ball. 4 5 5 4
38 13 2 & 10 Complete 28 Shotgun, 4-man rush, good protection and pocket presence, 28-yard throw to Fells in middle, over LB and in front of Safeties. A good NFL throw, though not quite as accurate as you'd like. Timing and velocity were excellent. 4 5 5 4
39 13 1 & G Throwaway 0 Shotgun, no pressure, half-roll right, Thomas not open, ball thrown away. 3 3 4 3
40 13 2 & G TD 3 Shotgun, sprint left with protection, throwback screen right. Excellent execution by Tebow, especially in selling the sprintout. 3 3 4 5
41 14 3 & 5 Sack -3 Shotgun, 6-man blitz, no apparent recognition or adjustment presnap. All quick routes covered. Tebow grabbed instantly at top of drop. 3 1 3 3

Here is a count of the event types that I identified, and the average grade for each:

Event Type Frequency Average of Pocket Average of Recognition Average of Decision Average of Effectiveness
Complete 12 4.17 4.17 4.25 4.50
Incomplete 10 3.10 3.20 3.10 2.10
Sack 6 2.83 2.83 2.83 2.67
Run 5 3.40 4.20 4.40 4.00
Drop 3 4.00 4.33 4.67 4.33
Throwaway 3 3.67 2.33 3.00 3.00
TD 2 4.00 4.00 4.50 5.00
           
Grand Total 41 3.56 3.61 3.73 3.49

a.  How many bad throws would you say that Tebow made in the game?  I’m charging him with four awful throws and two subpar ones.  I feel a little bad about calling the one where he missed Eric Decker for a TD in the seam awful, but I did.  (Tebow was getting hit by two men, and made a powerful throw off his back foot, but he missed by a mile.  Where it was bad, it was really bad, but it definitely wasn’t all bad.)

b.  I hit him for a 2 on the throw 15 yards wide of Demaryius Thomas, because if 88 had run what I think was the correct route for the defense called, it would have been a good throw.  I actually considered calling it a 3, but I decided I wasn’t confident enough that Tebow was right and Thomas was wrong.  I’m 75% sure, though.

c.  On the flip side, Tebow had 15 good throws, with three of them being dropped.  Before the 4th quarter, as we know, he had only five of them.  Once he got into a rhythm, he threw the ball well, especially when he had protection.

d.  As for the six legitimate sacks, I’m blaming Tebow’s post-snap actions for one of them, and his lack of presnap recognition for two more of them.  For three of them, he’s not remotely to blame.  As good a day as the line had in the running game, they were pretty bad in protection.  For what it’s worth, PFF put one sack on Tebow, too.

e.  Where Tebow has been impressive so far this season has been in not making catastrophic decisions.  I had him with two bad decisions, and four pretty bad decisions on 41 dropbacks.  A guy like Cam Newton has been looking good, but he’s been making a ton of bad decisions.  Christian Ponder, for as well as he threw the ball, was notably bad as a decision-maker Sunday too.  There’s no guarantee that a QB ever improves as a decision-maker (see Cutler, Jay) but I’ve been pleased with Tebow’s early improvement in that area this season.

These are my specific evaluations, and I’m not going to do this every week, but I wanted to give everybody a chance to see specifically why I think the 55 minutes of awfulness narrative is bunk.  If Tebow had hit those two throws to Thomas and Decker downfield, just think how different the perception would have been.  The completion-percentage idiots still would have howled, but the narrative would have changed dramatically. 

3.  Speaking of completion percentage, tell me what you think of this stat line.

Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp % YPA
302 442 2767 11 12 68.33% 6.26

That completion percentage led the NFL in 2006 and was recorded by David Carr during Gary Kubiak’s first season as Head Coach of the Texans.  Third prize was he was fired, and nobody ever looked at him as a starter again. 

The key statistic is yards per attempt, and Carr was awful with an average of only 6.3 yards per attempt.  He could check it down all day, and he would, and guys would catch the ball.  There was no inclination to go downfield though, and little effectiveness when Kubiak made him do it. 

If completion percentage were at all meaningful, in and of itself, the league leader wouldn’t get fired and relegated to being a backup.  It’s easier to have a quality YPA when you complete more passes rather than less, but getting the ball downfield is the main thing.  Tebow has a history of being a high YPA guy, even if he wasn’t particularly on Sunday.  I suspect that he'll show better in that category on a slightly better throwing day.

As time goes on, we need to see Tebow be effective on his downfield throws, and record a solid YPA.  I have a lot of reason to suspect that he will hit those throws as he gets more comfortable, and that he’ll also gain a better feel for the short throw.  I can already see it starting to happen, actually, where the guy knows where to go with the ball more than he did last year.  Once he executes, there will be a lot to be excited about in the YPA line.

4.  I need to briefly clarify something from this morning’s Lard.

Ted thinks stats do not or will not capture the essence of someone like Tebow, who indisputably brings some terrific, immeasurable qualities to a football team and onto the field.

I made a comment to Doug last week that Tebow brings hidden value to an offense because of his run threat.  An example of that is that when the DEs stay home, guarding against the bootleg, it tends to open bigger interior holes for the RBs.  We’ve seen that when Chris Johnson played with Vince Young.  Also, when a DE spies a QB, the defense loses either a coverage guy or a rusher.

My point was simply that there is value that isn’t present with every QB, and that if you look only at passing statistics, and compare a guy like Tebow to everybody else based solely upon those statistics, you would fail to understand the bonus strategic advantage that he brings to the table.

I’m afraid that Doug’s sentence could possibly give the impression that I think statistics don’t matter with Tebow, and that’s not what I think.  I couldn’t agree more with Doug that Tebow’s rate stats like ANY/A and TD% and INT% should be competitive with the guys at the top of the NFL if he’s going to be a really successful QB over a long period of time.  If Tebow runs for 10-15 TDs a season (which I think is likely), though, I’m less worried about something like TD% being down a little bit from a guy like Aaron Rodgers. 

In other words, Tebow doesn’t have to be statistically successful in exactly the same way as other QBs in order to be a good player.  The value that his running ability creates has to be considered in evaluating him as a football player against other football players.  If Matt Ryan throws for 30 TDs, and never runs for one, and Tebow throws for 20 and rushes for 10, and their teams win the same number of games, was there a difference in QB productivity?  Of course there wasn’t. 

I don’t think that Tebow ‘s play is immeasurable by statistics; I think that it’s measurable by different statistics than other players at the QB position.  I’m actually not an intangibles guy, believe it or not.  I’m a performance guy, and my point all along has been that Tebow can perform at a high level in the NFL, and that you just have to understand him a little differently than other QBs to see that.  Frankly, Cam Newton is helping him with that, because he has to be understood in the same way.  For one season, Tebow was one of a kind in the NFL, and now there’s another of the same type , who inexplicably has a more positive media narrative around him.  (Explain to me how the good guy who does prison ministry and circumcisions has more personal criticism thrown at him than his former backup, who got kicked off the team at Florida, and whose father tried to sell him to Mississippi State.)

I can just picture specific people saying “Well, Bartlett is in the tank for the guy, and he says that you can’t measure him by stats, and he’s trying to make the whole thing murky, and trick us all into sharing his bias.”  That’s not what I’m saying, or what I think, and I want to make sure that the record is clear about that.

5.  Let’s talk scheme.  I really liked what the Broncos did from a running game perspective on Sunday, but the scheme of the passing game was very problematic to me.  I felt that from both a protection and a concept standpoint, the Broncos didn’t put Tebow in a position to be successful until late in the game.  I can only hope that that was the result of an epiphany by Mike McCoy and company that will effect future game plans.

a.  Protection – The Broncos minimum-protected a ton on Sunday, averaging 5.5 blockers.  You’d think that would be okay, when the Dolphins averaged 4.3 rushers and usually had a spy, but the Broncos didn’t hold up well at all.  Tebow actually held his own in the pocket and hung tough a lot of times, but the pressure affected him like it affects any QB. 

According to PFF, Tebow was 3-for-11 for 28 yards and a TD when pressured.  Part of that is on him, because he’s got to see where the rush is coming from, and change his protection and hot routes to account for it.  There were a few occasions Sunday where Tebow missed seeing blitzes presnap, and I dinged him for bad recognition on them. 

For the most part, though, the Dolphins' front four whipped the Broncos' front five until late in the game.  McCoy’s adjustment was finally to start running some crossing routes against man coverage and giving Tebow an outlet.  By spreading out the formations more in the 4th quarter, the Broncos also took potential blitzers out of the box and simplified the presnap reads for Tebow.  If it was four men, as it mostly was, he could see that right away, and allow for it.

The Broncos need to free up Tebow to keep a sixth (or even seventh) protector if he thinks he needs one.  As he gets to be a better QB, he’ll see the blitz presnap and throw a downfield throw to a spot to a guy against man coverage.  In the 4th quarter, on dropback #20, Tebow actually did this, and almost completed the pass to Royal.  It was exactly the right technique, read and decision, and a good enough throw.  It was the kind of subtle thing that tells me Tebow is growing, and makes me excited.

b.  Route Concepts – If Mike McCoy watched film, which I’m sure he did, he’d have clearly seen that the Dolphins play a ton of man-to-man.  Unfortunately, for most of the game, the route concepts were zone-beaters like 4 verticals. 

There was very little in the way of crossing routes, and the use of the screen game was minimal, although the Dolphins were largely sitting on the screen early.  There also wasn’t much effort to move the pocket, or to play series football off of the running game, where you make a specific play action pass look like a frequently called run.

Next week, the Broncos will face Detroit, which plays a lot of zone, so the zone-beating stuff will be better used.  More to follow on that Friday.

I don’t think that the Broncos offense was too conservative Sunday, as some have opined, but I do think that it wasn’t responsive enough to what the Dolphins were doing until late in the game.  An effort needs to be made by Mike McCoy to start adjusting to what Tebow feels good about doing, and to be more responsive to protection problems.

Against Detroit, the Broncos are going to almost certainly struggle to protect against four linemen, so the Broncos are going to have to strike a balance between giving Tebow time and giving him quick options.  Let’s see some self-awareness that four-fifths of the Broncos line struggles to anchor in protection, and that the Lions have nine legitimate beasts on their D-line.

6.  Finally, I wanted to touch on the overall development of Tebow, from a strictly observational perspective.  I’ve seen a lot of people say that he’s regressing, and to me, that’s just nowhere near true.  To wit, I observed the following:

a.  Tebow's inclination to stand tall in the pocket has improved greatly from last season, and what really impressed me was the way that Tebow kept his eyes downfield.  That’s improved a lot, even from the preseason.  All this stuff that Tebow instantly becomes a runner if his first read isn't there proved not to be true on Sunday, and that's a sign of progress.

b.  The mechanics of Tebow’s throws are on the upswing as well.  The two throws that Tebow missed downfield to Thomas and Decker were really well-spun balls, and so were a number of throws that he completed.  He had a few that were less good, and he needs to get more consistent, but he showed better throwing mechanics Sunday than he did in any game last season.

c.  His footwork is also markedly better, in an overall sense.  On the few occasions where Tebow had a clean pocket, and even on some other plays, he got his lower half into his throws and showed fine velocity and accuracy.  There’s still a lot of room to improve, but the trend is going in the right direction.

d.  Tebow needs to improve on recognizing pressure presnap, as I mentioned before, but I was impressed with the way he felt pressure in the pocket and tried to move to avoid it.  On the TD to Thomas, Cameron Wake had Tebow dead to rights, but Tim made a brilliant move on him and made the play.

e.  As for the act of completing balls, I want to see Mike McCoy help Tebow out in that area.  He’s always been a rhythm athlete, like a jump shooter in basketball.  When a jump shooter is off, you want to get him to the free throw line, so that he can see a couple go into the net.  Tebow needs to be given some easy-completion route concepts early in games that similarly help him establish an early rhythm.  I say this as a guy who’s been watching Tebow play for 5+ years – you have to get Tebow to the free throw line sometimes when he starts to get a little erratic.  Urban Meyer understood this, and my hope is that Mike McCoy and John Fox come to as well.

I just continue to think that with 10 more games, there’s no way that Tebow doesn’t look like a completely different player than he did when he came to the Broncos.  A lot of the improvements that I’m seeing aren’t obvious, and are subtle and small parts of the whole, but they’re there.  John Fox isn’t blowing smoke when he says Tebow is coming along well and will continue to improve.  If you shut out all the noise, just let the kid develop and see what happens, I think that a lot of people are going to be surprised.

That's all the time I have for today, friends.  I'll be back Friday, as always, and we'll see how Lion meat tastes.  See you then.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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2014 Offseason

Offseason coverage