In an NFL preseason-opening weekend full of much-anticipated debuts, Tim Tebow’s first game action with the Broncos may have been at the top of the list. In about 20 minutes of playing time, the results were what you would have expected from a Heisman-winning college quarterback turned professional rookie — a combination of dazzle and frazzle.
It took until the final play of the team’s 33-24 loss at Cincinnati for a classic Tebow moment — a gritty 7-yard rushing touchdown — but in his overall performance, he showed other signs of why the Broncos drafted him in the first round in April.
The first aspect of Tebow’s game that stood out: his 6-3, 245 frame. The Bengals’ defensive reserves were aggressive in coming at the quarterback from both sides, and Tebow would have been planted in the ground consistently if it hadn’t been for his strength and elusiveness.
Relieving second-stringer Brady Quinn with 4:39 left in the third quarter, Tebow almost provided his initial big highlight moment on his second pass. Throwing across his body to the right sideline 45 yards downfield, he was let down by wide receiver Matt Willis, who dropped the pass.
During his second of what ended up to be four series, Tebow hung in nicely with Bengals’ pass rushers clinging on to him, managing a short completion to Britt Davis. On the following play, he had the ball sail on him a bit in trying for a first-down pass down the right sideline.
Tebow finished with an impressive stat sheet: 8-for-13, 105 yards passing, plus two runs for 10 yards and that last-second TD. The most important number: No turnovers, thanks in big part to an overturned call of a Tebow fumble that would have resulted in a Bengals touchdown. He looked determined to shake off that play. Rebounding well from being rattled is a good sign of young quarterback growing on the fly.
The Broncos didn’t keep him comfortable in the shotgun formation familiar to him from Florida, either. They mixed up a few plays under center, even though most of those were runs.
Quinn looked shaky during the second and third quarters, which opens the possibility of Tebow moving up the depth chart soon. Becoming the No. 2 behind starter Kyle Orton is a reasonable and reachable goal by the end of the preseason.