Broncos discover Tebow is a winner in the right role

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Tim Tebow is no longer a puzzle as a professional.

The rookie quarterback is coming off his most significant action for the Denver Broncos, eight Wildcat snaps last week against the New York Jets -- with his first NFL touchdown run.

Before that, the two-time national champion and former 2007 Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida had made only a cameo appearance in the Broncos' opener at Jacksonville, his hometown.

Oakland coach Tom Cable said he expects to see Tebow take at least a handful of snaps Sunday when the Raiders renew their rivalry with the Broncos in a matchup of 2-4 teams.

"I think you have to (prepare for the Tebow packages)," Cable said. "Obviously, he's got a background in it. As he gets more acclimated to the NFL, I'm sure he'll play more."

With starting quarterback Kyle Orton split out wide on all eight snaps, Tebow carried the ball six times for 23 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run, and handed off twice to Correll Buckhalter.

"It felt good just to be able to go in there and try to help the team," Tebow said.

The big question now: When will Tebow throw his first pass as a pro?

"I'm just going to do whatever they ask me to do and try to do it with all my heart," Tebow said in his don't-rock-the-boat manner.

But is he antsy to air it out?

"I'm just excited that I get a chance to be on the field," he said. "Whatever they ask, I am going to do the best I can."

Here's the deal: The Broncos know they will have to add a passing wrinkle for Tebow's occasional playing time to remain effective -- and to loosen up the running lanes, too.

"We can't do the same thing with it week after week after week," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "We'll probably continue to tinker with it, including his ability to throw the ball."

Tebow isn't a polished passer yet.

In the months after his surprising selection as the 25th player taken in the draft, Tebow worked on his footwork and throwing mechanics as he tried to morph from a combination college quarterback -- maybe the best ever -- into a prototypical pro passer.

He had mixed results in the preseason, but his arm has been on ice since then.

The formations the Broncos used last week with Tebow in the game were built for the run; they overloaded the right side of the line and never used more than one receiver, excluding Orton.

"It's great to have all those big guys in front of me," Tebow said. "They make the job easy."

Although the Broncos call their version of the Wildcat offense the "Wildhorse," they don't really have a name for Tebow's menu, using names such as Trip, Blimp, Raven and Steer for his plays last Sunday.

"Blimp's the one with all the big, fat guys in the game," McDaniels explained.

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The only time the Broncos lined up with their traditional formation was on his TD run, when they had three tight ends and fullback Spencer Larsen also on the field.

Several times, Tebow had to wave his arms to quiet the crowd as it was going crazy, led by those same Tebowmaniacs who cheered even his post-practice sprints at training camp.

"They just got excited and were a little bit loud, so I just didn't want any false starts," Tebow said.

Tebow has two souvenirs from his first score for the Broncos: the football, which he planned to give to his father, and a shiner under his right eye.

"I think it was one of those in-the-pile things," he said.

How much Tebow plays the rest of the season depends on several factors, including his throwing accuracy, the pacing of games, the score.

"The other thing is the rhythm that Kyle's in," McDaniels said. "Sometimes you take that into consideration. I know it's not much different than having him hand the ball off, but in some ways it is different. And Kyle's played pretty doggone well this year, and I think that's kind of factored into the whole thing as well."

McDaniels said he leaves Orton on the field when Tebow goes in to keep defenses guessing.

There's also the logistical issue of Orton, not Tebow, having the radio in his helmet. So McDaniels calls the play to Orton, who relays it to Tebow in the huddle.

Orton insists he doesn't have a problem sharing snaps.

"Tim's a good runner. Tim can run it outside, he gets the 4- or 5-yard, tough yards inside, just something else that they have to prepare for," Orton said. "I think we have a lot of personnel groups in our offense in general, and it just adds one more thing that they have to look at."

Orton said he'd love to be left uncovered and catch a pass from Tebow sometime. But he's not working with the receivers on the Jugs machine just yet.

"Don't have to," he insisted. "I've got great hands."

And Tebow's got pretty good legs, even if his left arm remains a bit of a mystery.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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