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Broncos defend their play-calling for Tebow

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 5:22 p.m. MDT

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) gets up off the turf after being tackled by the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011, in Denver.

Joe Mahoney, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The latest debate raging around Tim Tebow is whether the Denver Broncos are doing all they can to give their raw quarterback every chance to succeed.

His pocket of protection has been disparaged and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's play-calling has drawn criticism from fans and broadcasters alike.

A close look at the film, however, shows the Broncos have tailored their offense to Tebow's unorthodox skill set even though the results haven't been pretty.

In his two starts, a win over the Dolphins and a loss to the Lions, Tebow has been in the shotgun an average of 40 times. From there, the Broncos have rushed the ball 17 times on average, half of the time on designed runs by Tebow.

And the Broncos have spread out their offense, using three wide receivers, an average of 50 times a game, almost every time with a tailback in the backfield with him.

Those numbers are way up from the first month of the season when Kyle Orton was Denver's QB.

Tebow, though, has been slow to get rid of the football and his passes have mostly been off-target. His completion percentage is a paltry 46 percent, and he's been sacked 13 times in two games during which the Broncos are just 6 for 30 on third-down conversions.

With his remarkable success and popularity at Florida, where he won two national championships and the 2007 Heisman Trophy, Tebow has probably gotten more attention and scrutiny than any other quarterback with five career starts.

His transition from combination college quarterback to pocket passer in the pros has been a difficult one.

"He's a work in progress," said coach John Fox, who intimated Monday that Tebow's starting status is a week-to-week proposition.

John Elway says confidence is paramount for a young quarterback, who has to feel like he's making progress, and McCoy said he doesn't sense any doubts creeping into Tebow's head.

"I mean, look at all the young quarterbacks in the league, how many come out right away and start lighting it up from the first game on?" McCoy said. "There aren't many in the history of this game that do that. They all struggle early on, it's an adjustment to them.

"He's a young quarterback. So, there's going to be growing pains."

Raiders coach Hue Jackson, whose team hosts the Broncos on Sunday, said it's clear the Broncos have made their playbook Tebow friendly.

"I think they are trying to build an offense for him," Jackson said. "... They're trying to move him around in the pocket a little bit. And then they're using his legs in their running game so that he's the primary ball carrier at times. So, I think they're giving him opportunities to display his abilities."

Since supplanting Orton at halftime against San Diego on Oct. 9, Tebow has run a team-high 29 times for a team-best 189 yards.

Tebow is more comfortable lining up in the shotgun than under center, where his footwork and messy mechanics are more of an issue. The trade-off is that he has to take his eyes off defenders and watch the ball come into his hands, then quickly look up again to decipher the defense.

On one play last week, he held the ball for nine seconds before being sacked in the pocket.

John Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowler and former Broncos safety turned broadcaster, spent much of Sunday's Fox telecast questioning the Broncos' offensive game plan against Detroit.

He suggested Denver's play-caller needed to call some easy throws to get Tebow into a rhythm so Denver's 30th-ranked passing could get going.

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