The third-string quarterback had an uninspiring debut against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, completing just four of his 12 passes for 55 yards and rushing for another 31 over two quarters of work. He still looked unpolished throwing from the pocket, a problem that plagued his stops in both Denver and New York.
However, Tebow is adjusting to his third offense in three years, and the Patriots appear committed to giving him a chance to secure a spot on the 53-man roster. One appearance isn't enough to consider his run in New England over.
During his second exhibition game with the Patriots, Tebow needs to show progression in each of the following areas.
Tebow's inexperience during the pre-snap process was evident early on against the Eagles last week.
After throwing incomplete on first and second down, he failed to identity a blitz on third down and was sacked with relative ease. There appeared to be two problems on the play.
For starters, the Patriots didn't have enough blockers to handle the pressure. Sensing a third-down blitz, Tebow could have adjusted the protection and, at the very least, bought himself some extra time. He then compounded the mistake by not acquiring a "hot" receiver before the snap, which left him no quick out against the pressure.
Awareness in the pre-snap period comes with experience, and Tebow simply hasn't had much over his brief NFL career. Also, the mistake he made on this particular third down was one most quarterbacks have made at some point in time at the NFL level. Defenses are getting better and better at disguising what's coming before the snap.
On Friday night, Tebow needs to show progression in understanding the defense before the snap. Not only will it help him against these kind of jail-break blitzes, but heightened awareness beforehand is typically a precursor to having success once the play is in motion.
Few offenses in the NFL are more predicated on timing and delivery than New England's.
On one hand, this reality can excuse Tebow, who has only spent less than three months in the Patriots offense, for not looking like a grizzled veteran early on. Any quarterback needs time in the system to master route concepts and the delivery of the football within those concepts.
However, he also needs to show that he can handle a timing-based offense.
At times during his preseason debut, Tebow held the ball far too long in the pocket. He also routinely locked into his first target, which slowed down the progression process and resulted in delayed deliveries. Any decision to go from the first to second progression needs to happen in a split second.
Another important part of timing is developing a rapport with receivers, and it's unlikely that Tebow and any of the backup pass-catchers will be on the same page at every turn, especially during the preseason. This will also take time and reps.
Tebow should be getting more comfortable with the Patriots offense. In the second preseason game, he should be expected to show improvements in his ability to deliver the football on time and to the correct read.
Accuracy may always be a problem for Tebow, who doesn't have great mechanics or footwork as a pocket passer. His career completion percentage is just 47.9, and he completed just 33 percent of his attempts in the opener.
On his first attempt against the Eagles, Tebow was provided a clean pocket and a wide-open Aaron Dobson along the sidelines, but his throw was low and wide. Dobson couldn't haul in what would have been an easy first down.
These are the kind of simple throws that an NFL quarterback needs to make with a high rate of consistency.
A play later, Tebow actually delivered a nice touch throw to Zach Sudfield down the seam, but it was only slightly off the mark accuracy-wise and again fell incomplete.
Both reads were correct (encouraging), but now the accuracy has to follow. If Tebow is slightly more precise against the Buccaneers, he should be much more efficient in both his final stat line and in moving the Patriots offense.
Continued Work in the Read-Option, as a Runner
This aspect goes away from the obvious improvements Tebow needs to show as a pocket passer, but the Patriots will still want to see him in action as a runner. Against the Eagles, he ran just four times for 31 yards. Among those attempts were a quarterback draw on third down that moved the chains and another 14-yard gallop off left tackle using the read-option (see video below).
While the Patriots are using their time with Tebow to help aid his progression throwing the football, his greatest asset is still the ability to pressure a defense in multiple ways, especially on the ground.
The read-option can be his biggest attribute, but only if tied in with improvements as a passer. At some point in this preseason, Tebow needs to put the entire package together.