When Tim Tebow signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in April, it seemed like a long shot that he’d actually make the team’s final 53-man roster. He’d been out of the NFL for two years after stints with the Broncos and Jets, and most recently had been cut by the Patriots before the 2013 season.
Although Tebow spent 18-months relearning how to throw and how to play quarterback while moonlighting for ESPN, the prevailing logic around the league was that he still faced an uphill battle in Philadelphia — a team that already had three quarterbacks in Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, and Matt Barkley.
But after two days of Eagles training camp, it’s sounds increasingly likely that Tebow will make the final 53-man roster in place of Barkley. During the first two days of camp, Tebow and Barkley have split reps with the third team, and the Eagles are reportedly looking to deal Barkley to any team that will take him.
This leaves the third quarterback position available for Tebow. According to Jimmy Kempski of the Philly Voice, the consensus around the team is Tebow is expected to make the roster:
“Over the last few weeks, chatter among some people who are plugged in with the team believe that the Eagles didn’t just sign Tim Tebow because he’s a nice guy, or a ‘camp arm.’ Their sentiment is that the Eagles not only intend to keep him, but they intend to use him.”
Tebow has also captured the attention of other members of the Eagles.
“Tim Tebow is going to shock a lot of people because he’s going to make the team,” Eagles edge rusher Brandon Graham said on Detroit radio. “I think he’ll play a lot.”
Although Tebow has struggled in his various stints around the NFL, it’s not crazy to think that he might actually have a role — albeit a minor one — this year with the Eagles.
In April, a report suggested that Chip Kelly was planning to experiment with short-yardage packages designed specifically for Tebow. Although Tebow is the best passer in the league, his athleticism allows him to thrive in short yardage situations because the defence must honour both the possibility that he can run and that he can throw. His game-winning touchdown against the Jets in 2011 happened for this exact reason: by covering the receivers, the Jets defence allowed Tebow to slip out of the pocket and run it in himself. Conversely, if a defence assumes Tebow will run and prepares this way, they will leave receivers open. NFL defences are more sophisticated than simply covering the run or the throw, but Tebow nevertheless complicates things.
That Tebow is a dangerous offensive threat in short yardage situations is the main reason Kelly will consider using him in such circumstances. But there’s another reason for slotting Tebow into these 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-inches plays: they’re often the most dangerous for quarterbacks. Keeping the ball often leads to a big hit, and a sneak across the line of scrimmage to gain just a few inches might land the quarterback at the bottom of a pile of linemen. Bradford is coming off two knee surgeries in two years, if the Eagles can use Tebow — and use him well — there’s the added benefit of keeping Bradford healthy.
Of course, it’s important to remember that Tebow, should he make the team, will be the third-string QB and that third-string quarterbacks rarely, if ever, see the field. But Chip Kelly is perhaps the most creative offensive coach in the league, so should anyone finally find a role for Tebow to fill, it’s him.
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