Tim Tebow Struggles, Riley Cooper Shines at Senior Bowl Practice

Jay HendryCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2010

Tim Tebow Watch has now entered Day Three. 

The mood is still tense. 

The first two days proved a few things about the Gators' star that the skeptics had shouted all along. 

The same two days also proved that he has upside.

Tebow's first day was full of fumbles, bad footwork, and missed targets. Nearly every Tebow naysayer is screaming "NAY!" right now. 

He looked lost under center.

He was somewhat absolved from the bad start thanks to a report stating that he had a high fever and possibly strep throat.  A 103°F temperature tends to throw you off your reads.

It wasn't a total disaster as Todd McShay would have you believe though. Scouts praised Tebow's poise despite the bad start.

I know I'm reaching a little here, but in an era of Vince Young meltdowns and conduct issues, a guy who can stay cool despite a terrible situation is given a bit more leeway.  Just ask quarterback Mark Sanchez and his 20 INTs.

Day Two was a little more of the same and a little less jittery. He was still inconsistent, but he was better. His fumbling rate dropped, although he still had one, and he showed off a much underrated part of his game.

Despite all of the criticism of Tebow the passer, his downfield touch is at or near an NFL level. In fact, prior to the 2009 season, he was a better deep ball thrower than Super–Sooner Sam Bradford (I have no idea how that stat held up after Tebow's 2009 season and Bradford not playing).

During Day Two, Tebow's best passes were of the long ball variety. He hit former teammate Riley Cooper and explosive, Percy–position–player (PPP) Dexter McCluster deep. 

Tebow has a lot of work to do to get his game NFL-ready, but showing progress will help ease doubts about his ability to play at the next level. 

He's not going to turn into Peyton Manning before Saturday's game, but he can show that he's able to adapt to a new offense.

Riley Cooper is on the other side of the coin. He went into the week with very little hype and a lot of criticism if you were listening to Gators' fans. 

Honestly, I had him pegged as a Braylon Edwards. 

Consider the upsides: good size, fast enough to get behind almost anyone, and can block any DB on the field. 

Then there's the glaring weakness: he can't catch.

At least, I didn't think he could catch. He had the annoying habit of making a great play every game which made more casual fans forget his two or three drops. 

I'm not a casual fan, though.  I'm the guy devoting 500+ words to two players' All-Star game practices. 

I remember the drops. 

Cooper's trying hard to make people forget about them though. He has vaulted up the depth chart with both Zach Robinson and Tebow praising his ability. 

He wowed scouts with a one-handed grab off of a Tebow deep ball yesterday and seems to be having the kind of week that will move him out of the 4th–7th round range.

There are still two days of practice and a game though. 

Cooper must continue to play at an exceptionally high level or the more important people who aren't just casual fans, namely the NFL scouts, will put a big, fat check–mark next to "have consistency issues" on their evaluation sheets.

Both Tebow and Cooper still have to ease major doubts and only three more days to do it.  The rest of the week will likely play a large role in where both players get drafted.



Day three (Wednesday) was more of the same for both players.  Tebow had a fumble and was unimpressive.  Cooper continued to show off his shiny new hands with another one handed grab.

Between his Sugar Bowl "breakout" and the impressive practices so far, Cooper is moving up.  Remember how Hakeem Nicks exploded in 2009?  He went from talented, underrated player to overnight sensation.

Cooper is doing that on a lesser scale.  He won't ride this to a first round selection, but he's probably going to go a lot higher than he was initially projected. 

I wouldn't be surprised if he's a top 100 prospect with the way he's played.



The pads came off and Tebow loosened up.  While Thursday is special teams heavy, the offense stepped out for some two–minute drill work. 

Tebow shook off the week's rust and completed multiple passes including a 50–yard bomb to roommate Riley Cooper (there it is, Vern!).  Overall, it was a better day for Tebow, although he still has a lot of work to do.

Cooper capped off his good week with another up–day, which included the aforementioned deep catch.  He later caught a TD pass, displaying good body control and awareness on the route.

The Senior Bowl will be played Saturday at 3pm.  No word yet on starters, but Sparano says he would like to get every QB equal playing time.


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