There's a lot of buzz surrounding what Tim Tebow's role with the New England Patriots will be if he makes the roster out of training camp, but the 25-year-old quarterback's best chance for success in his first season with the Pats is as a red-zone weapon.
Regardless of the position he's playing or what he's listed at on the roster when things become official, there's something special about Tebow when he has the ball in his hands.
Nowhere in the NFL is that characteristic more important than in the red zone.
It's not as if the Patriots are lacking in the red zone department, but that doesn't change the fact that Bill Belichick is an innovator around the goal line. New England was using linebacker Mike Vrabel as a red-zone threat during the early part of the 2000s, and each year they seem to find a new, out-of-position athlete to plug into the mix.
The Patriots led the league in red zone efficiency at 70 percent last season (according to ESPN's Jeremy Lundblad), but that doesn't mean they aren't looking to get better in any way possible. The last thing great teams do is get complacent, and that word has never been associated with the Patriots in the past decade.
One way that New England can avoid becoming complacent and too reliant on their future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady is to find a role, set of plays or even situations where Tebow can use his athleticism and nose for the goal line to their advantage.
Snoop Dogg, for one, loves the idea of Tebow as a red-zone threat for New England (via NFL Network):
Don't forget—Tebow had 57 rushing touchdowns over his four years at Florida.
We're too far removed from his college days for that to officially matter, but a quick glance back to the 12 rushing touchdowns he had in his first two years in Denver aid the idea that if he's going to be on the active roster, he needs a chance to contribute.
The New York Jets never offered that chance.
Posts like this from USA Today gave us false hope that a two-QB system could work in New York:
PLAYBOOK: How the Jets will use Tim Tebow in the red zone. http://t.co/aSiaXQMX— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) September 9, 2012
That never came to fruition in the circus that was Tebow's lone year in the Big Apple, but that doesn't mean Belichick and company don't have something up their sleeve to make sure playbook projections aren't a joke this time next year.
The obvious way to get Tebow involved is with his arm. Still listed as a QB on the active roster, the team is obviously holding out hope that he can one day have the accuracy, throwing motion and knowledge of the defense to take over a starting role.
That day won't be this season, but tweets like this from Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler and Los Angeles Times columnist Sam Farmer lend hope to the idea of Tebow getting under center at some point in 2013:
Forget the scrum. Interesting to note in b-roll, Tebow's throwing motion DOES look different. Bit more compact: http://t.co/MYQWQXqvpf— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) June 11, 2013
Then again, this one from Arash Markazi in 2012 would give momentum to those who feel that we're living the same song and dance over again just one year later:
Matt Barkley said he watched Tim Tebow workout at USC and said his throwing motion looks better.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 24, 2012
If QB is not in his future, there's no reason why he can't be on the field in different positions where the ball could be in his hands. As noted by Lundblad, the Pats are known to use the direct snap to running backs, and the list of players who help on the goal line that aren't even offensive players is one of the longest in the league.
Tight end and wide receiver are also possibilities for Tebow to be a decoy in the offense, especially considering his athleticism in open space make him an ideal candidate to turn a five-yard out route into a 15-yard touchdown.
Like the Jaguars are doing with Denard Robinson, there's no reason to paint Tebow into an uncreative box during his first season with the franchise.
Which position would best serve both Tebow and the Pats in the red zone?
I firmly believe that the Patriots are going to give Tebow a shot to prove he deserves the QB title, but that likely won't come this season unless a catastrophe happens at the first two QB spots on the depth chart.
As it is, the Pats also know that this guy can play football. He makes plays when there are no plays to be made and that's part of the reason he's been so polarizing for the past three seasons.
Belichick will find a role for Tebow and you can bet red-zone threat will be one of the options. Hopefully his days solely as a pass protector are done because we all know that Tebow is a good football player when he has a chance to show those skills on a consistent basis.
The best chance to show that on the 2013 Patriots will be from the 20-yard line and in.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.