Broncos' balance must improve, QB Orton says

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Kyle Orton is irritated. Brady Quinn is befuddled. Tim Tebow is resolute.

Denver's three quarterbacks had different matters on their minds Wednesday as the Broncos (1-2) began preparations for their trip to Tennessee (2-1) this weekend.

Orton, whose 1,078 yards passing through three games are the most by a Broncos quarterback since 1962, suggested the Broncos' third-down troubles and red-zone issues could be solved with more production out of Denver's dismal running game.

Quinn admitted he didn't know why he leapfrogged Tebow to serve as the Broncos' backup quarterback Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, and Tebow insisted he was just going to keep hitting the playbook and learning what he can by watching.

The Broncos were a miserable 5 for 15 on third down and failed to score a touchdown on five trips inside the Colts' 20-yard line in a 27-13 loss Sunday.

Just one week earlier, they were 14 for 20 on third down in a win over Seattle.

"I think we were balanced, and I think we were in the right situation, short-yardage situations," Orton said. "We were able to stay balanced and had the whole game plan at our disposal."

That's another way of saying he needs more production out of his running backs, none of whom are averaging even 3 yards a carry.

"I mean, you've got to be able to run the ball in the red zone," Orton insisted. "The closer you get down there, the more people there are to defend in the end zone, and the easiest way to get in is to run it in."

Orton wasn't just calling out his tailbacks.

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When asked on a conference call with reporters in Nashville what was wrong with the running game, Orton cracked: "Not enough yards."

"We haven't had negative runs, which is a good thing," he said. "We have only had five or six negative runs, which we always talk about as a good thing. We are starting the play well. We just need to finish some blocks and finish some runs and get into the secondary and make some big plays."

The Broncos are last in the NFL, averaging just 67 yards on the ground.

They failed to punch it into the end zone on three runs by Laurence Maroney from inside the 1-yard line Sunday.

Blame it on an inexperienced and injury-riddled offensive line that could get right tackle Ryan Harris back against the Titans. Or on a banged-up backfield, in which Knowshon Moreno (hamstrings), Maroney (thigh), Andre Brown (turf toe) and Correll Buckhalter (back) have been in and out of the training room.

One thing's for certain: Tebow is not a legitimate option near the goal line just yet.

"We're not going to do that in short yardage," coach Josh McDaniels insisted this week. "People who mention that, I don't know -- that's ridiculous."

Tebow, whose bruising running style made him a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion at Florida, hasn't played since taking three snaps in the Broncos' opener in Jacksonville, his hometown, and rushing twice right into the pile for 2 yards.

If Tebow thinks he could be part of the solution in the red zone, he's not saying.

"Well, I just try to do whatever my role is and to the best of my ability accomplish that role and, you know, whatever I'm asked to do I'm going to do it and just try to do that the best I can," he said in his usual diplomatic manner.

After winning the No. 2 quarterback job with a decent training camp, Tebow was the third quarterback Sunday. McDaniels said it was a combination of game plan and performance during the week and that it was a fluid situation.

Quinn, who had an awful training camp, said he's getting a hang of the offense now.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "I think as you're here longer you get more and more comfortable with what you're doing week to week in the game plan."

So, what did he do better to earn the No. 2 job last week?

"I don't know," Quinn said with a laugh.

And he'll keep it by ...

"Just do whatever I did last week, and then do it again this week."

Tebow said nothing changes with him week to week whether he's No. 2 or No. 3.

"I'm trying to learn every day of practice and improve and get better, just try to keep understanding things more and play faster in practice," he said.

Knowing that he and Quinn are basically battling it out on a weekly basis doesn't add any pressure, Tebow said.

"I think I try to approach it the same every week, and that's be ready, know what my role is, try to prepare and learn the game plan as best I can, and every day in practice continue to try to improve the things I don't think I'm doing well," Tebow said.

Orton is off to the best start of his six-year NFL career and Quinn is quickly catching up on the nuances of McDaniels' intricate offense, Tebow is adjusting from his role as the big man on campus to being just another rookie biding his time in the pros.

"It's been a great learning experience for me," Tebow said, "and it's been, I guess, every day just a constant process to keep learning, keep getting better, and I've got a lot to work on."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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