KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jerheme Urban hasn't been playing a whole lot of wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs lately. He has only one catch all season, and that was in the opener.
He might as well play quarterback for the Denver Broncos.
Or at least try to imitate it.
You see, Urban stands 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, and he has some experience at quarterback from his younger days, not to mention experience in track. He's an unusual athlete, which makes him a natural fit to mimic the Broncos' Tim Tebow, who runs a read-option offense that NFL teams just don't see very often.
It's been Urban who has been battered by the Kansas City defense in practice this week as it tries to figure out the best way shut down Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner they will face in an AFC West showdown Sunday.
"I can only judge Tim as an opposing coach getting ready to defend him," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said Wednesday. "The guy's a winner and has won everywhere he's been, and he's shown that now in the NFL. I think he's a heck of a player."
He certainly creates some unique challenges.
There are plenty of running quarterbacks in the league, guys like Michael Vick who are a threat to take off from the pocket at any moment. But few teams script option-style plays more likely to be seen in college for a quarterback who often resembles a battering ram.
Running an offense similar to what he excelled in at Florida, Tebow generally has three options after taking the snap: throw it down field, pitch it to Willis McGahee or one of the other running backs, or simply keep the ball himself and scamper down field.
It didn't work very well two weeks ago in a 45-10 loss to Detroit, when the Broncos were still trying to figure out what they were doing. But it worked much better last week.
Befuddling a stingy Raiders defense, Tebow managed to pass for 124 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 118 yards. The attention that Oakland paid him created holes for McGahee, who ran for loose for 163 yards and two scores in the 38-24 victory.
Haley said the Broncos' offense is similar to the wildcat formation in vogue around the league, with one significant difference: Tebow can throw the ball, too, despite what his critics say.
"You got a quarterback running the option," Haley said, "and that makes it a triple threat."
Veteran linebacker Derrick Johnson said he hasn't faced an option-style offense since his college days at Texas.
"That's definitely a college game plan when you do so much option," he said. "However you can get a win. It may not be the traditional way, standing in the pocket, delivering, you know, certain routes and all that stuff. As long as you win it doesn't really matter."
It's clear the Chiefs understand what Tebow brings to the field.
Figuring out how to stop it is another matter entirely.
"You got to get to him," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "He's a real tough guy, a powerful runner. You see guys hit him at the knees almost getting knocked out."
Gilberry said it's not just the yards and points that Tebow is responsible for that dictates how valuable he's been. It's the fact that the Broncos, after a slow start to the season, have rallied around him. They've won two of the three games he's started.
"The whole team is feeding off him," Gilberry said. "They're riding behind him."
That makes the job that the guys in practice are doing imitating Tebow that much more important. It's hard enough defending a style of offense that you only see from one team, but it's even more difficult if you're not able to replicate it throughout the week.
That responsibility isn't falling only on Urban, either.Comment on this story
Backup quarterback Tyler Palko is a left-hander, like Tebow, and an athletic guy in his own right. So Haley has called on him to line up opposite the Chiefs' defense. But unlike Urban, Haley refuses to let the Chiefs put a hit on their No. 2 quarterback in practice.
"It's good we've got a lefty quarterback in Tyler who's extremely athletic, but at the same time — though he doesn't want this — I don't want our backup quarterback have something happen there," Haley said. "Tyler's not happy about that — he thought I was questioning his toughness. I had to let him know that I had to look out for the team, and he's the No. 2 quarterback."
Trying his best to play the part of Tebow, the Broncos' clear No. 1.
"He's a heck of a player," Haley said of the former first-round draft pick. "They tried to kill him last week. Physically, Oakland sent bodies at him from everywhere, and it's pretty clear this guy won't back down in the face of pressure, and that's always good to have."