Each week, Chad Pennington breaks down a dynamic NFL playmaker or scheme, devises a game plan and discusses a strategy for success. This week, Pennington looks into how QB Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense will attack an attack-minded Detroit defense.
Responsibility. That’s the operative word. Tim Tebow has been given the keys to the Denver Broncos. With this promotion, he is no longer just responsible for himself. His responsibilities now include preparing himself, his offense, and leading his team.
His offensive teammates must now adapt to how he runs the show. They will have to adjust to the differences between Tebow and Kyle Orton – calling the play, the snap count, the type of ball thrown, his scrambling ability, and the list continues. This is certainly a process that doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s an exciting time for a young player when he’s handed the keys to his team. He is now in control, and he gets to play the game the way that he knows how to play it. Tebow can now see it through his eyes – not through someone else’s eyes.
There were six new starting quarterbacks in Week 7. For NFL fans, these changes make Sundays more interesting, but it’s also a scary time for the NFL.
For players, the opportunity to perform and showcase your talent is exhilarating. For teams and the game of football, times have certainly changed. Patience and development appear to be missing in some cases. And, quite frankly, our league is moving into an entertainment-style league and moving away from a true football league.
With new opportunities, there are always new challenges. Social media and fantasy football have changed the playing field. We want instant gratification on and off the field. The fan’s experience outside of the game has come to the forefront. At times, the game in between the white lines appears to be a sideshow.
There’s a fine line here. I certainly understand an owner’s challenge of making a business successful and profitable. But football is still a game, and it’s still a sport. Always remember that!
Tim Tebow is a player who deserves the opportunity to develop. This process was hindered due to the lockout. The first true offseason for a rookie occurs between his first and second year. This is a crucial time for development.
My assignment this week: game plan for Tebow and the Broncos offense against the Detroit Lions defense.
First, I disagree with what many are saying about Tim Tebow. I think a lesser quarterback would not have been able to bring his team back from a 15-0 deficit with 5:40 left.
Many people are not giving him enough credit for what he did in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, because it was extremely hard to do. Tebow made some difficult plays that many quarterbacks are unable to make – both with his arm and with his legs.
A good example: The 28-yard throw down the middle to tight end Daniel Fells on the last drive. It was a pinpoint throw, and a great catch by Fells.
Another example: The first touchdown pass. Tebow felt Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake coming from his blindside, unblocked. He spun out, escaped out of the pocket, and made the 5-yard throw for the touchdown.
These two examples require talent, a sixth sense, and an ability to make plays.
Most would think these plays were made against a vanilla, prevent defense. Not so fast! Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan played man coverage, blitz man, zone blitz, and zone coverage. He threw everything out there.
The Dolphins did have three plays that they should have made to end the game, and they didn’t. But Tebow was able to respond with big plays of his own. It was a combination of him making plays and the Dolphins playing poor defense.
You must be careful in wanting to see it “be pretty.” For now, it’s not going to be pretty; that’s not his style. Tebow’s style reminds me of “old school” quarterback play. It’s gritty. It’s hard-nosed. These guys made football plays with whatever means were necessary. No one can argue with that.
Will that carry him into the future? I don’t know. But give the guy a break for now.
Against the Lions, Tebow will be challenged by a defense that defines itself by getting to the quarterback and punishing him. Detroit has been successful pressuring the quarterback with a four-man rush. The Lions’ defensive line is physical, fast and nasty.
Against the Dolphins, Tebow was sacked seven times, but the Broncos were able to rush for a season-high 183 yards. Tebow accounted for 65 of those yards and made plays out of the pocket.
With this in mind, there are two things I would do this week against Detroit.
No. 1: I would implement numerous seven- and eight-man protection schemes. Build the routes to complement these protections. This idea allows Tebow to focus on his reads without worrying about “hot” throws and unblocked defenders. Typically, a quarterback will only be responsible for an unblocked secondary defender in these protections. Linebackers are accounted for, and quick throws to the receivers called “sight adjusts” account for the unblocked secondary defenders.
No. 2: I would give him a No. 1 option, a No. 2 option, and the No. 3 option would be Tebow himself. Making a play with his feet or scrambling to throw would be his third option. If No. 1 and No. 2 are not there, scramble and make something happen.
With this approach, the scramble drill has to be practiced on a consistent basis. Wide receivers must get accustomed to Tebow’s scrambling style. There are certain rules that skill positions adhere to when a quarterback scrambles. These rules must be practiced to assimilate what could happen during the game.
Big plays can be made when a quarterback extends the play. Watch Aaron Rodgers. Watch Ben Roethlisberger. They do a great job of extending the play when the play breaks down.
Obviously, Rodgers and Roethlisberger – being that they are more veteran quarterbacks – have more options than just two.
I would prepare Tebow for eight-man fronts, free safety-man coverage and two-deep zone. I believe defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham will use as many eight-man fronts as possible to stop the Broncos’ running game and Tebow’s scrambling ability. He will force Tebow to make throws and reads from inside the pocket.
Using a simple read scheme will allow Tebow to be comfortable in the pocket. If the read breaks down, let Tebow use his ability to extend the play. This may not look pretty, but it certainly can be effective.
Finally, some view Tebow as a polarizing player. If I were to offer him advice, I’d say this: Continue to be who you are. I would much rather be criticized for being a man of character and someone who treats people right, than be criticized for being someone who doesn’t make the right decisions or do the right things.
Be true to yourself, concentrate on being the best quarterback you can be and the best person you can be off the field. Don’t worry about the rest. The rest will take care of itself.