Broncos coach John Fox made it absolutely clear Monday that Tim Tebow’s future lies in throwing passes, not catching them.
A day after using his backup quarterback as an emergency wide receiver, Fox reiterated: ”He is a quarterback.”
But in a pinch, Tebow makes an interesting decoy. Not that Fox wants to travel down that road again.
The Broncos entered the game Sunday against Cincinnati with only three healthy wideouts after Pro Bowler Brandon Lloyd was a late scratch due to a lingering groin injury.
And when Eddie Royal (groin) was hurt early in the contest, the Broncos were down to just two receivers: Eric Decker, making his first career start, and Matt Willis, who has just one start in four NFL seasons.
That forced Fox to use Tebow for a handful of plays out wide, especially since the former Florida standout knew the offense so intricately.
Tebow donned his receiver’s gloves and ran the routes just like he was supposed to, even if Kyle Orton hardly glanced in his direction.
On Monday, Fox joked that Tebow stepped in and ”actually graded 100 percent.”
No joke: Tebow won’t be switching positions anytime soon.
”We’ll list him on the program as a quarterback,” said Fox, who earned his first win with Denver as the Broncos fended off the Bengals 24-22. ”Tim wants to win, like everyone in that locker room. He does have a skill set outside of a lot of quarterbacks.”
The Broncos (1-1) could be in a bind at receiver this week as they prepare for the Tennessee Titans. Fox had no updates on the severity of Royal’s injury, or the high ankle sprain to tight end Julius Thomas, who would’ve switched to receiver had he not been hurt five plays into the game.
Fox said Lloyd will be listed as day-to-day.
The Broncos may look at bringing in wideouts from outside the organization or possibly promote someone such as Eron Riley from the practice squad. The wild card could be the health of Demaryius Thomas, who was well on his way back from an Achilles injury before hurting his finger in practice.
Provided his foot is completely healed, Fox said there’s a chance Thomas could tape up the finger.
”Again, that’s one of the options,” Fox said. ”He’s a guy we think highly of. Unfortunately, he’s been injured and not been able to play.”
The Broncos are so banged up they had to turn to some unlikely sources for contributions against the Bengals. With Knowshon Moreno out with a hamstring injury, Lance Ball helped spell workhorse Willis McGahee.
And with Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey (hamstring) also sitting out, Jonathan Wilhite saw some time in the secondary, even coming up with a crucial sack of Andy Dalton on the final drive of the game that halted the Bengals’ momentum.
This is all part of the Broncos’ ”next-man-up” philosophy.
”The next man could possibly be the best man,” linebacker Joe Mays said.
With Lloyd sidelined and Royal out, Decker had quite a game, catching five passes for 113 yards and two TDs.
”You get opportunities and it’s what you make of them,” Decker said. ”I think my preparation through the offseason and preseason – I was ready. And Matt Willis was as well. We stepped up. We knew what we had to do to win this ball game.”
Mostly, it was hand the ball off to McGahee and let him go to work. McGahee ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in his heaviest workload in three seasons.
”He understands the defenses. He understands what people are trying to do,” Fox said. ”He understands what we’re doing.
”I thought this was a character, toughness-type of win.”
With a little improvisation thrown in for good measure. Fox certainly didn’t count on having to make so many adjustments on the fly.
”I hope we don’t have to repeat yesterday’s depth chart,” Fox said. ”It won’t be by plan that we go in with three (wide receivers) and definitely (not) to play a game with two and relying on a backup quarterback to be our extra receiver.”
Just in case, Tebow’s ready. He was preparing in practice last week for just such a scenario.
”I’m going to do whatever I can do help the team,” Tebow said. ”If they ask me to go out there and run some routes and block some people, I’ll go do it.”
And know this: Tebow does have all the patterns committed to memory.
”I have to know all the routes,” Tebow explained. ”I play quarterback.”