Tim Tebow: Could He Be the Most over-Hyped Special Teams Player Ever?
Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westoff explained:
"If a team squibs it at you or pops it at you, he might be the perfect guy to put in that could make an adjustment. If they kick it deep, he could block. If they squib it or pop it, he could be guy that we'd have with a ball in his hands."
Westoff elaborated that:
"His role with me won’t be a paramount role ... I’m not counting on Tebow coming in and being a hard-core special teams player. That’s not what we want. We have a limited role for him, but it will be one that presents problems."
Even knowing he participated in most of the special teams drills on Friday, it's clear from this quote from Westoff that the team isn't expecting Tebow to be Devin Hester.
The team suggested he could be used as a personal punt protector and see time on return and coverage teams.
As a punt protector, his arm and mobility would force opponents to consider the threat of a fake anytime he is on the field. This is unquestionably a strategy the team could use, but how many fake punts can a team really run over the course of an NFL season? Two, three tops?
Bear in mind that the Jets had Brad Smith, a player with a similar skill set to Tebow's (albeit a different physique), and didn't implement this strategy. Even with the right personnel in the game, the risk/reward on fourth-down conversions is too high to persuade coaches to make them a mainstay of the game.
In the return game, the addition of Tebow simply puts another fullback-type player on the field for the Jets. Without the hands or breakaway speed of a wide receiver or running back, Tebow would not be back fielding kicks, but rather positioned in squib range. He is an incredible athlete, but his biggest asset is the uncertainty of run/throw and being on the return team doesn't take advantage of that.
On the coverage team, Tebow would be expected to tackle elusive return men while sprinting downfield. The only experience he has in tackling is following an interception/fumble on offense, and even then, as quarterback, he would be somewhat stationary as the defender moved toward him.
It isn't something he isn't capable of doing well, but why bother trying to develop a quarterback into a linebacker when the team could simply plug in a practice-team defender?
Additionally, many cringe at the proposal of exposing the team's backup quarterback to even more of the vicious collisions that occur during a game. Keep in mind that this past season's rule change moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line was done to increase touchbacks and limit high-speed hits.
Knowing the brutality of downfield special teams coverage, it's hard to imagine the Jets would allow Tebow to play enough snaps in that role to truly make a sizable impact.
In the first few days of minicamp, Tebow has been involved in special teams drills. That said, there is the definite possibility that, while the team may legitimately use him at times in that capacity, the soundbites and speculation are, in part, a ploy to force opponents to waste valuable time preparing for an option they'll hardly use.
Tim Tebow offers many options to the Jets: solid backup quarterback, red-zone threat and the best attitude in the game, but his perceived influence on special teams seems to be the product of the media's infatuation with the player rather than the reality of what his on-field contribution might be.
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