Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox is expected to name Tim Tebow the team's starting QB after meeting with players and staff this morning. Should this change happen as expected, it will raise a litany of questions, and all eyes will be on the much-debated quarterback, as he attempts to right the Broncos' ship and prove that he s worthy of being an NFL starting QB.
Another immediate question will be: what kind of impact will Tebow have on the rest of the Broncos' skill-position players?
The following slides examines each of the Broncos prominent skill players and whether having Tebow under center will increase their production, decrease their production, or have a neutral effect.
Possibly the biggest beneficiary of Tim Tebow taking over at quarterback could be Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno, provided that he can overcome minor nagging injuries that have kept him off the field for much of 2011.
Still, fresh off an injury last week, Moreno was the recipient of a screen pass that went for 28 yards and a touchdown. With defenses looking to pressure the young quarterback, the coaching staff will likely provide Tebow with an outlet option on every play, and Moreno could see increased production—especially in the passing game out of the backfield.
The second biggest story of the Broncos offense from Sunday's game against the Chargers (albeit overshadowed by Tim Tebow's electric entrance) was the emergence of Willis McGahee as the team's feature back.
McGahee stepped up to prove that he could handle the full workload with Knowshown Moreno out much of the game (and season) with lingering injuries. McGahee gained 125 yards on 16 carries and looked good doing it.
However, his previous production may ultimately decrease, as his role as the team's goal-line back will likely be superseded now by Tebow, who excels at punching the ball in the end zone from short range.
Yesterday was a prime example, as despite McGahee's great day running the ball, he came away with no scores compared to Tebow's two (one passing, one rushing).
McGahee's rushing numbers may increase, as well as his role in the offense, but his touchdowns could drop off significantly.
For the opposite reason, FB Spencer Larsen gets an "increased" rating by our metric system. While his numbers, mediocre to begin with, may get only a slight boost, he could be the beneficiary of increased playing time and a larger role in the offense with Tebow under center.
Should the Broncos look to load the backfield and commit to a heavy power running game, much of that could run right through Larsen. Coach Fox may run several FB-option keepers, which would put Larsen in line to increase his numbers even more when Tebow gives the ball up to keep the opposing defense honest.
Brandon Lloyd comes in as a neutral performer with Tebow at the helm. Certainly his numbers are down from his 2010 campaign when he lead the league in receiving yards.
If we were to compare this situation to last season, it's more than fair to say that his production would decrease.
But in that his numbers are down anyway, as he is drawing more attention from opposing secondaries and shut-down corners, he will probably just continue on at his current pace. Tebow will still target him, and Lloyd will likely receive a similar amount of looks that he has up until now, but his numbers from 2010 are most definitely a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, breakout wide receiver Eric Decker's early production numbers will likely drop off significantly with Tebow as quarterback—especially if Sunday is any indication, when he had two receptions for a total of negative four yards.
Decker could still be a target and could still be a weapon, especially as he has shown he has a nose for the end zone (five TDs). But Tebow will most likely spread the ball around and throw quickly to whoever happens to be open, rather than target specific receivers.
Additionally, an increased rushing attack and Tebow's scrambling ability could ultimately end up cutting into the yards that Decker has amassed thus far this season.
Despite being a rare bright spot up until now, look for Decker's numbers to decline with Tebow under center.
Tight End Daniel Fells' current production will likely remain rather consistent. He emerged as one of Kyle Orton's go-to receivers, proving that he has above average hands and can move pretty well for a big guy.
Expect to see Tim Tebow target the tight ends more often, specifically in the mid-to-short range passing game. A big target like Fells who has proven he can catch the ball could see continued looks, and might become a nice safety valve if Tebow finds himself under lots of pressure.
Rookie TE Julius Thomas, the basketball-turned-football player with exceptional athleticism, could look to benefit from Tim Tebow as quarterback. Although missing the past two games with injury, Thomas is expected back after the Week 6 bye.
Look for the Broncos to run more two tight end sets with Tebow, and a big, young, athletic tight end opposite Fells could be just the sort of receiver Tebow could utilize to great success.
If Thomas can find his way back to the field, he may be able to establish a winning rapport with Tebow throwing the ball.
Eddie Royal has seen his role, and his number, decrease substantially since his breakout year in 2008. Expect that trend to continue with Tebow under center.
Even though currently injured, when Royal does return to the field it might appear that Royal's work in the slot could benefit Tebow. Indeed, Tebow will likely utilize the slot receiver, but spreading the ball around to multiple receivers and his reliance on the TEs will cut into Royal's already diminished numbers.
He was having a hard enough time making an impact with pass-happy Orton in the backfield. With Tebow under center, there is no reason to think Royal's numbers will improve significantly.
You remember Demaryius Thomas, right? The Broncos 2010 first-round draft pick—selected three picks higher than Tim Tebow? The second year wide receiver could be in line to benefit significantly from having his co-first-round draft mate at quarterback.
An incredibly gifted and athletic receiver, Thomas has been beset by injuries and lost the second half of his rookie campaign with an achilles tear. Back and healthy this preseason, he then suffered a broken thumb which has kept him sidelined for all of 2011. Still, the Broncos are optimistic that he could return after the bye, and if he does, look for Thomas to be an immediate favorite downfield target for Tebow, especially playing off of improvisation.
Whether or not the Broncos skill position players stand to increase, decrease, or remain constant in their production thus far in 2011, one thing is for sure: having Tim Tebow at quarterback brings a spark of hope and excitement to the Denver offense that was sorely lacking. If Tebow was highly scrutinized before, now the eyes of the whole nation will be on him to see if he can actually deliver and make good on all of the hype.