With Tim Tebow recently being traded to the New York Jets there has been almost non-stop talk about whether or not it’s a good move for the Jets, and whether or not he should or should not be the Jets starting QB in 2012.
I’ll start by saying that I think Tim Tebow is an Elite Football player, but a very very limited NFL QB. He has every measurable you look for when you are searching for a talented football player. He’s big, strong, fast, elusize, and powerful, all of which equal trouble for a defense when he has the ball in his hands.
Although limited as a QB he does have the ability to do one thing very well as a passer, he throws the deep ball, outside of the numbers with incredible touch and above average accuracy which can be seen in the Bronco’s Playoff win vs Pittsburg last season.
So on to the question at hand, Why would the Jets choose to bring in a back up QB who causes a media circus, and outrageous fan reactions, if they are really counting on Mark Sanchez to be their franchise QB?
I believe it’s because on the field it makes perfect football sense. One thing to remember about the NFL, is that the game is all about game planning, match ups, and forcing your opponent to tip their hand.
The buzz word you will hear over and over about this move is that Tebow will be the Jets “Wildcat QB.” The first thing we will look at is what the “Wildcat” really is, and why it is basically extinct in the NFL today. Then we’ll look at how I think the Jet’s will use Tebow to give their opponents’ defensive coordinators nightmares.
The wildcat, is a formation that became popular in the 2nd half of the last decade originating in the high school level and brought to the NCAA by Gus Malzahn at Arkansas, then one of the assistants from that staff became a coach for the Miami Dolphins under then head coach Tony Sparano. The same Tony Sparano who is now the offensive coordinator for the Jets. The wildcat is simply a reincarnation of one of the oldest offenses in football, the “single wing,” in which a running back took the snap from the center and ran with the ball. Lets take a look at a typical Wildcat formation.
The biggest advantage gained by the Wildcat, is mathematical. You see, when a QB has to hand the ball to the RB, the QB is now eliminated from the play, he’s no longer a threat to throw the ball, and he sure isn’t going to block anyone. So, by moving him away from the formation, the defense has to move a defender out to cover him, and when this happens, it is now 10 vs 10 on the run play, as opposed to 10 vs 11 in a typical run.
Also you’ll notice the LT is lined up on the right side of the formation, next to the RT, this is known as an unbalanced line and it gives the offense an advantage on that strong side of the formation. Typically the W (my abbreviation for either a WR/RB depending on the team) would go in motion across the formation before the snap. This makes him a threat to carry the ball.
Then the offense would execute one of our basic run plays we discussed in an earlier post, either Zone (with a little extra added that we’ll go over), Power, or Counter. At first this was enough because the sheer numerical advantage plus the unbalanced line put the defense in enough of a bind to have success. But defensive coordinators figured out that the QB still wasn’t a threat because the RB couldn’t throw the ball so they began blitzing both CB’s at the RB which is how the Wildcat has faded in recent years.
Now that we know some background about the Wildcat. Lets look at how Tebow’s skill set changes that package, as well as other ways the Jets can involve him in the game plan.
1) Standard Spread Formation QB Runs (especially in the Red Zone)
Here think of what you saw on the field last year in Denver with Tebow at QB.
This is an example of a QB power from 11 personnel, against a Nickel defense.
Here the offense uses their 3 wide formation to force the defense out of their base run stopping defense, removing a LB from the field. However Tebow’s ability to run the ball forces the defense to bring the SS up “into the box” around the line of scrimmage. This leaves only the FS deep. Tebow’s inability to consistently make intermediate depth throws will allow the defense to play Cover 1, or man coverage with the FS deep in the middle. This leaves 7 defenders in the box for the defense, against 7 blockers and Tebow. That is easy pickings for the offense all day long.
Now we look at the added element Tim brings to the Zone run play.
This is called the Zone-Read play, it is run by high schools and colleges all over the country. Here the QB takes the snap in the shotgun, and goes to hand the ball to the RB coming across to run the outside zone play to the right. The QB then watches the reaction of the DE highlighted in Yellow. If he runs across the formation to make a tackle on the RB he pulls the ball back out and runs right past him for an easy 4-5 yard gain and potentially more. If the DE stays home, then the QB has essentially blocked the DE and he lets the RB take the ball and the zone play is run as normal.
When we can see these inside the 20 and especially inside the 10 yard line where space in the passing game is limited. We will see him be very effective.
Yes, I do beleive you will see the Jets line up with an unbalanced line with Tebow taking the shot gun snap and sprint motion across his face for the zone-read aspect, as well as the power and counter game, however, I think you will also see the Jets line up in this type of set and attempt to take some shots down the field.
This is where Tebow’s ability to throw the deep ball will be hugely beneficial, as I believe rather than placing Mark sanchez, their starting QB out wide in the wildcat sets, I think they’ll use a WR out there who can seperate and get down the field. This threat will again keep the defense from loading up the box and force them to defend the whole field, and if they blitz that CB, I guarantee Sparano sends Tebow out later that game, lines him up in the Wildcat, fakes the handoff to the motion man, and looks to throw the deep ball.
3) Special Teams
I fully expect to see Tim Tebow on the Jets special teams units. He will be the personal protector for the punter when the Jets line up to punt, and I think he’ll be the holder on Field Goals.
Using him this way leaves the opposing team in doubt everytime they line up as to whether they may fake the kick with a guy like Tebow there who can make some throws, or take off running. Even if they never make a big play from a fake, the threat of it happening will be enough to prevent teams from sending pressure to block a kick, which will be a huge advantage from the jets.
I also expect to see Tebow lined up at other positions on the Offense. He played some WR in Denver last year before becoming their QB, and many people projected him to be a hybrid TE/FB(or H-Back) out of college.
The bottom line is having a guy like Tebow on your team, opens up a whole world of possibilities for your team, which in turn, creates a whole world of things your opponents must prepare for, in addition to preparing for the standard offense they’ll see the other 55 plays the Jets are on offense.
The one resource you can never get back is time, and preparing for what Tebow does will take away from the time their opponents spend preparing for the rest of Sparano’s offense. Even if Tebow only hits the field 5-10 offensive plays a game. He will make a difference Monday through Saturday which may be seen more in what Sanchez and the rest of the Offense are able to accomplish than any plays that Tebow is able to make week to week.
This year should ideally look similar to Tebow’s freshman year at Florida, where he was used situationally to challenge defenses in different ways, but was not asked to be the everydown QB.