Tim Tebow said he made improvements. His doubters laughed. Chip Kelly backed him up. So did his Philadelphia Eagles teammates. The laughter grew louder.
On Sunday, Tebow made a little headway in making those doubters change their minds.
The former Florida star threw for 69 yards and added 15 on the ground, impressing as he played a majority of the second half. Looking calmer and more fluid in the pocket, Tebow completed six of his 12 passes and led the Eagles to a field-goal attempt on his first drive. He added a seven-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter of the team's 36-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
As ESPN's Twitter feed noted, Tebow already has his fair share of supporters:
Playing in his first game since being released by the New England Patriots in 2013, Tebow garnered far more fanfare than your typical third-string quarterback. Fans raucously cheered every completion, and there were a number of "Tebow" chants. Before the matchup, he seemed more concerned with getting re-acclimated to game action than anything.
"Just try to do what you've been coached to do; go through your reads. Calm before the storm. Focus. Just go play. Have fun," Tebow told Les Bowen of Philly.com. "A big change for me has just been appreciating every opportunity that you have out here, whether it's a walkthrough or it's a game, playing in front of a bunch of fans."
Despite that strong first drive, Tebow later showed some rust. He took three sacks for 28 yards, displaying the same difficulties with protection reads that plagued him in previous stops. The Eagles punted the ball three times on his drives. Tebow's two scoring drives came after Indianapolis turnovers, which made for short fields.
In particular, Tebow's touchdown drew some tongue-in-cheek comments:
From a serious analysis perspective, there was some good and some bad with Tebow's performance. It's still quite clear he cannot properly read NFL blitzes—even those of the vanilla variety. Kelly's system is predicated on a set of rules, so Tebow should have less to do on the fly because of that, but he still found himself taking bad sacks. Neither Matt Barkley nor Mark Sanchez went down in the game.
Barkley's performance in particular should be troubling for those hoping Tebow makes the roster. The former USC standout threw for 192 yards and completed 12 of 20 passes. While he tossed an interception, it came on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage. Barkley looked far more comfortable in the pocket on Sunday than he did at any point as a rookie.
If this winds up being an either/or proposition, Barkley is clearly ahead. But Tebow showed enough flashes of talent that he's not completely out of the race.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.