The Pittsburgh Steelers may as well have had Tim Tebow's back last night in the preseason exhibition by further exposing the deficiency Kyle Orton possess in the deep passing game.
After a phenomenal 6-0 start last season, Josh McDaniels came away with only two wins in his last 10 regular season games last, clearly a result of being exposed for lacking a deep passing threat.
Last season 83 percent of Orton's passes where thrown for less than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, Orton has been mightily challenged in the deep passing game during this preseason as well.
Orton's only pass for 20 yards beyond the line-of-scrimmage this preseason came when he severely underthrew Jabar Gaffney, who could have been off to the races if he did not have to stop and get down on one knee for the 31 yard reception.
While Orton was taking advantage of his great protection and great surrounding cast, outside of the 31 yard reception, he managed to rack up a total of only 25 yards with his throws from the line of scrimmage, before the receivers went on to rack up the rest of the yards with their feet.
Orton had about 140 yards worth of deep passes hit the dirt that night. He put on a horrible display while attempting to execute the deep passing plays possessed by the highly complex playbook McDaniels brought over to the Broncos from when he was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots.
Watching defensive penalties bail McDaniels out of one failed third down conversion after another, the head coach had to have gotten flashbacks of last season's atrocious third down conversion rate.
Then too see Orton fail miserably in the deep passing game, only to be followed up by fetal position display Brady Quinns possessed in the second half while looking lost as all get out, must have gotten Josh McDaniels in such a fit of rage. One wonders if this is why he broke his toe that night?
Imagine being forced to go into the season with this mess? Or being forced to start your rookie right out of the gate because your vets are looking far too inept to start and allow the rookie to get his feet wet first before being thrown to the wolves.
Oh well, looks like we are in for an episode of 300 where the child will lead them as King, while victoriously draping the skins of his ferocious opponents over his shoulders.
Week 2 we got exposure as to why rookie sensation Eddie Royal fell completely under the radar last season. Royal only had one reception in each of the two exhibition games. In the first two exhibition games combined Gaffney had four times as many receptions as Royal.
Against Detroit, Orton was so fixated on Jabar Gaffney that he managed to throw the ball only one-third-of-the-time to all the other wide receivers combined.
Gaffney had to come out for a breather during the two minute drill after Orton went to him on back-to-back-to-back plays. His expression leaving the field was like "help me out coach get this quarterback off of me, sheesh!"
Gaffney had more than three times the yards as all the other wide receivers combined.
Dre Bly wound up getting the most yards from any single of Orton's passes during the entire preseason so far. Its too bad however that Bly is a former Broncos player; the completion therefore being the result of a 52 yard interception for the Detroit Lions.
The closest you can get to a real NFL game in the preseason is Week 3. Again what we saw from Orton last night was his worst display of the preseason thus far.
Zero passing touchdowns and an interception to seal the deal. Add to that the rushing offense only managed to gain 38 yards in the first half. This clearly a reflection of Orton's inability to spread the opponents out with the deep passing game.
2.4 yards per carry average is what happens when opponents feel that they can bring their safeties up to stack the box on you.
- Drive One, it seemed that the Broncos first scoring drive was led by the Steelers defense whose penalties added up to half of the yards obtained during that drive.
- Drive Two had just one third down conversion and a FG to show for it.
- Drive Three had two passing attempts for three yards with Broncos going three and out.
- Drive Four, with the Steelers defense giving the Broncos 30 yards worth of penalties, it seemed that the only time the Broncos were able to manage to move the ball during the drive was with an 18 yard pass by Orton. Just shows how vital the deep passing game is in the modern era.
But when Orton wound up getting down into the red zone thanks to a penalty, he became highly inefficient. Three passing attempts at the red zone and all the Broncos manage to come away with is one yard and a FG?
- Drive Five, Orton threw an interception right out of the gate.
The interception in my mind is the direct result of having been exposed as the swarming defenders key in on the player Orton is locked on.
When opponents realize that all your capable of is dinking and dunking your way down the field, well they simply stack the box and savor the turnover opportunities as a result of being able to have a swarming defense around the ball, a swarming defense mind you that inadvertently stifles the rushing attack.
A Tale of Two Offenses
In the second half Tim Tebow came out as a second string quarterback. Tebow was the first quarterback to throw a touchdown in the game last night.
He also managed to come away with the longest passing play of the night for the Broncos.
Tebows deep pass set up the longest rushing play for the Broncos on the very next play, and two plays later Tebow winds up throwing his first touchdown as a Pro.
The deep passing game can really open up the rushing game. The rushing offense managed to have more than twice as many yards in the second half as the first.
Tebow managed to get more yards in the two exhibition games he played in with Orton than Orton did. Tebow ought to get a ton of action in Week 4 to seal the deal while getting even further dialed into the scheme, even to the point of actually positioning himself to start come Week 1.
I say Orton's performance has really given McDaniels no choice but to start the rookie.
This will keep Tebow's development from being stunted by the lack luster performance we have seen the past 13 games Orton has played.
The handicap Orton attributes to the deep passing game acts as a handicap to the rushing attack as well, not to mention McDaniels play book.
It is time for McDaniels to take off the ball and chain Orton imposes on his offense by allowing Tebow to take over the reigns as the starter for the Denver Broncos from here on out.