It was Tebow Time for the New York Jets in goal-line drills.
The Jets provided a small glimpse for the first time during training camp into their plan for Tim Tebow on offense Thursday, as the backup quarterback ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to Josh Baker in a four-play sequence that got the crowd at SUNY Cortland fired up.
”Yeah, I feel like I’ve done that once or twice,” Tebow said with a big smile, ”so it comes pretty natural. It was fun.”
On one wildcat-style play, Tebow took a snap from the shotgun, quickly faked a handoff to Joe McKnight and zipped into the end zone from 2 yards out untouched on what Ryan called a faked ”speed sweep.” Tebow had previously only been used in regular offensive plays and as the punt protector on special teams, but Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have said he’ll likely be used in a wildcat-style package.
”It was sort of (a wildcat play),” Tebow said. ”It looks like there’s more gadgets and gizmos, but it’s really just a power play that can stretch defenses. But, with the shift and with the motion, you can really stretch the defense horizontally.”
Ryan yelled to the defense before the drills that Tebow was ”live” – meaning he could be tackled if he left the pocket. Ryan said it was the first time in a practice that he made the quarterback ”live,” something Tebow also said he had never experienced.
”I just got a little smile and thought it was going to be fun,” Tebow said. ”Right before that, coach Sparano told me to keep it on the bootleg, so when (Ryan) said it was live, that made me smile.”
Tebow scored on the bootleg on his first play at the goal line, and then threw a short touchdown pass to tight end Josh Baker on the next. After Terrance Ganaway fumbled on the third play, the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) showed the defense a wrinkle that opponents might have to prepare for.
”Obviously, Tim, this was his best day of camp,” Ryan said.
The Jets had kept their wildcat plans mostly under wraps since acquiring Tebow from Denver in March, but ESPN has been camped out all week showing live shots from practice – including the goal-line plays Thursday. Clearly, New York has a lot more in store for Tebow and it’s likely much of that will be revealed during the regular season as the Jets game plan specifically for opponents.
Mark Sanchez, who led the first-team offense to two scores in four chances, realizes the plans could include him leading the Jets down to the goal line and then being replaced by Tebow for the scoring opportunity.
”We’ve got to get it in the end zone,” Sanchez said. ”I don’t care. Whatever we have to do, and coach Sparano is going to be the judge there on what exactly he wants. But if that’s what he wants, and that’s what puts it in the end zone, fine. We’ll drive it 99 yards and he can run it in. It doesn’t matter.”
It might seem unrealistic that a quarterback will be OK with coming off the field, especially when Sanchez has balked in the past when Ryan has given first-team snaps in practice to former backup Mark Brunell. Sanchez wants to make sure his rhythm is never affected, but insists he has a larger goal in mind.
”It’s bigger than what one person on this team wants,” he said. ”We really are in the business of winning and we have to be selfless, myself included.”
And, he knows that could really pay off in goal-line situations.
”If it’s him, 1-on-1 with a defender and a tackler, my money’s on Tim,” Sanchez said. ”He’s got this will about him to put into the end zone.”
Tebow is familiar with being used as a short-yardage specialist, performing in that role at the University of Florida as the backup to Chris Leak during the Gators’ run to the national title in the 2006 season.
”There was a lot of goal-line, a lot of red zone,” he said. ”I had a lot of opportunities to play in a lot of big moments, key moments – fourth down, big games, big drives. I think my freshman year that really helped me just as far as the experiences of being in those big plays and being able to realize what those moments are like so when I came back for my sophomore year, I felt like I was a lot more prepared and ready to go.”
Some fans and media have suggested that the Jets should always try for 2-point conversions after touchdowns now that Tebow’s around.
”That might make some sense,” said Ryan, quickly adding that New York won’t, of course, line up for 2 each time they score.
Tebow’s popularity off the field has been apparent since the day the Jets arrived in Cortland for the start of training camp last Thursday, when dozens of media converged on the small town in central New York. The fact a major network is providing live coverage of practices makes Sanchez shake his head.
”Other than us and Denver, it’s like nobody else is playing right now, which is crazy,” a smiling Sanchez said. ”Oh my God, there’s 30 other teams. What’s happening? That’s just the nature of this year and the kind of draw Tim has and the kind of draw Peyton Manning has.”
Sanchez said the team has done a good job of ignoring all of the potential outside distractions, adding that he has seen the Jets garner lots of attention since he was taken in the first round of the 2009 draft. All this, even while the defending Super Bowl champion Giants are 150 miles away in Albany.
”I mean, that blows your mind,” Sanchez said.
The Jets are used to all the cameras, though, especially since they were the subject of HBO’s ”Hard Knocks” two summers ago.
”It’s been pretty similar, but, you know, Tim brings a lot – of fans and media,” Sanchez said. ”It’s like a cult following, you know? You’d think the Grateful Dead are playing here or something. It’s crazy.”