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Tebow in Wildcat will be potent weapon for Jets, teammate Scott says

by | Senior NFL Columnist
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Tim Tebow is humble, a hard worker and a great teammate, Bart Scott says. (AP)  
Tim Tebow is humble, a hard worker and a great teammate, Bart Scott says. (AP)  

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- If you're Tim Tebow, quarterback for the New York Jets, this is how one four-play series goes at Sunday's practice: You juggle a snap, you overthrow a wide-open Eron Riley and you crank an incompletion into traffic before finally, mercifully, pulling down the football and scrambling through the defense, with fans cheering as you weave through the secondary.

OK, so Tebow's passing is, as teammate Chaz Schilens put it, "a work in progress," but so what? That's not why he's here. He's here to pump life into a run offense that barely had a pulse a year ago, and he's here to do it primarily out of "Wildcat" formations.

I know that may not seem plausible to you, but it does to Tebow's teammates -- with linebacker Bart Scott on Sunday standing up to come to Tebow's defense. Granted, that's what Scott does best -- play defense -- but his support of the backup quarterback was so emphatic and so genuine that it made you think ... you know something? Maybe this could work.

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"I think it's fun for you guys to deal with," said Scott, "but we understand the plan. We understand how tough the Wildcat is, having an athlete out there with the ball in his hands -- because we had to defend the Wildcat.

"We understand the pressure that it not only puts on our defense but on other defenses. Our defense has been Top-Six (ranking) since I've been in the NFL. So what's it going to do to the 24th-ranked defense or the 30th-ranked defense? It causes problems.

"It's a butt of a joke for a lot of people, but we understand what it does for us. We understand the advantage it gives us. Whenever you have to prepare for things that may or may not happen it stretches your defense; it stretches your mental capacity.

"What's always been a weakness of the Wildcat formation was that Ronnie Brown couldn't throw the ball; Pat White was too small to take the pounding. So now when you have a guy who can take the pounding and have the ability to throw the ball ..."

He was referring to Tebow, and Scott should know. It was Tebow who ran over, around and through the Jets last season in a come-from-behind 17-13 victory in Denver, with the quarterback scoring the winning touchdown on a 20-yard sprint left with 1:06 left. That's the Tim Tebow the Jets are getting, and that's the Tim Tebow they believe can and will help them improve the league's 22nd-ranked rushing offense.

At least that's the idea, and you can understand where the Jets are coming from. In 2009 they ranked first in running and went to the conference championship game. In 2010 they ranked fourth and went to the conference championship game. In 2011 they dropped 17 spots and missed the playoffs.

Draw your own conclusions. The Jets have, and they're convinced they can't win unless they run more effectively, which is why Tebow and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano -- who operated the Wildcat in Miami -- are here.

"When we had Brad Smith," said coach Rex Ryan, looking back to 2009-10, "and we were able to run the Wildcat, that helped us. We may not have run the Wildcat as effectively as Miami was doing, but we were close. (Now,) when you bring in a guy like Tim ... as much as I like Brad ... he wasn't able to give you the inside running game that Tim can -- and Tim can throw the ball a little better than Brad."

Makes sense to me. It makes sense to Scott, too, who tried selling the idea to an audience of reporters.

"Most people, when they make the check to a Wildcat, it's a generic edge blitz, one-high safety," he said. "But now you expose your guys on the field because they have to cover one-on-one. You have eight guys sitting there in protection. So now what are you going to do? You drop one guy out.

"People don't understand that the defense always has the advantage over offense (in the Wildcat) because you never count the quarterback. Essentially, it's 11 on 10. But when your quarterback is carrying the ball it's 11 on 11. So, all it takes is for one guy to get cut off or make a mistake, and then one guy has to make a tackle -- and I'll take my chances with Tim running the ball against one guy making a bad step, getting caught behind and not being able to make the play."

Hey, it worked in Denver. The Broncos were the league's top-ranked rushing team, with Tebow running for 660 yards and Denver so effective that it ran 55 times vs. Kansas City, while completing two passes. Oh, yeah, the Broncos also won. They won their division, too, then beat the defending conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers, with Tebow throwing for a career-best 316 yards.

So Tebow can throw. He just can't throw consistently or accurately. Fans here see it. So do reporters, Jets' coaches and Tebow's teammates. But cut the guy some slack. First of all, it's July. Second, Tebow is a notorious poor practice player. Third, Tebow never staked his reputation on passing.

The Jets know what they have in Tim Tebow, and it's not Broadway Joe. They say they not only can live with that but can thrive with it, too, and count Scott among the believers.

"How can you not accept somebody who grabs humility, who works hard and who's a great teammate?" he said. "I knew Tebow well before he came here, and he showed me respect, seeking me out and asking me, 'How can I be a better pro?' I mean, guys don't do that.

"You see the cameras that follow him. Half you guys (reporters) wouldn't be here if he weren't here. But he takes it all in stride, and it never affects his relationship with his teammates. We understand it comes with the territory, but we're able to deal with it. It's New York. We can handle anything."

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