After two straight losses, the Detroit Lions are looking to bounce back on the road against the Denver Broncos. Interestingly enough, the Lions beat the Broncos by a score of 44-7 to the start the season 6-2 the last time these two teams faced off. Since then, the two teams have basically gone in exact opposite directions. The Broncos have traded away their franchise quarterback, wide receiver and fired the coach that won them two Super Bowls, while the Lions have found themselves a franchise quarterback, wide receiver, and hopefully have hired a coach that will take them to two Super Bowls. In today’s post, I will take a look at the Broncos offense that, at this point, is really without a clear identity.
The Broncos offense is coached mainly by offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. McCoy is going into his third season as the Broncos offensive coordinator after spending nine seasons with the Panthers in various offensive roles. Of course, McCoy didn’t have as much control of the offense under former head coach Josh McDaniels and really was just relegated to coaching the quarterbacks until John Fox was hired this offseason as the Broncos head coach. There really isn’t a whole lot of information out there about McCoy and that’s probably because he is quite an inexperienced coordinator as compared to the rest of the NFL.
We all know that the Broncos starting quarterback is Tim Tebow, but the fact is that it’s really going to be the rest of the Broncos offense that carries them on Sunday. In his four starts in the NFL so far, Tebow has only once thrown the ball more than 30 times, which is to be expected from a quarterback as inexperienced as he is. That also means that the Broncos run the ball quite often, which again shouldn’t surprise anyone. In the four games that Tebow has started, the Broncos have run the ball 34 times on average, and three of those four starts came under the pass-happy Josh McDaniels. In last week’s win against the Dolphins, the Broncos ran the ball 39 times for 181 yards on the ground.
Tebow himself has account for a lot the rushing. In his starts, Tebow has actually run the ball close to ten times a game for 66 yards on average. His big game came against the Chargers last season when he rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. His passing numbers aren’t that bad, either, for a guy with so little experience. Tebow actually ended last season with a passer rating of 82.1, five touchdowns and three interceptions in three starts. Last week, he had a terrible day in terms of completions, completing just above 48 percent of his passes, but he also managed to throw two touchdowns in a winning effort.
Now, it’s hard for me to figure out what type of scheme McCoy is running just because there is so little information on him. Without a doubt, this is a run-heavy offense, but not the classic power-I run heavy. With Tebow at the helm, the Broncos are more or less using the shotgun as their primary formation much like the Lions, except for different reasons. Since their offensive line has some decent pieces to work with, the Broncos can actually manage to churn out good yardage even from shotgun draws and whatnot, and having a guy like Tebow, who can create his own running lanes, doesn’t hurt, either.
For this post, I watched some plays from the first and third quarters of the Broncos-Dolphins game, but really I wanted to watch the much fabled (by the media) last five minutes of the game. Here is what I came away with about Tim Tebow: the guy can be an NFL quarterback with the right amount of preparation, maybe even a pretty solid one. There were plenty of throws throughout the game where he just completely overthrew his receiver, but those throws have nothing to do with mechanics; they have do with timing, and those should be corrected once Tebow gets more game time under his belt. The thing that impressed me most about him was how he was able to get out of the pocket and make something out of nothing. Usually it takes elite athletes like Cam Newton to be able to do that in the NFL, but Tebow has fared pretty well.
The player that Tim Tebow most reminds me of is Shawn Marion, the basketball player. Anyone who has watched Marion play should understand the analogy. Marion probably has the most mechanically flawed jump shot in
NBA basketball history, yet he has managed to stick around the NBA for 11 seasons, including four All-Star appearances. I don’t know if Tebow, with his mechanically flawed throws, will ever be a Pro Bowl quarterback, especially with so many talented passers in the NFL, but he could definitely be a guy who quietly starts in the NFL for a decade to come.
With so little information out there on Tebow, I really can’t find a play worthy of breaking down, especially since most of the big gains he makes are just broken plays, so I will go right into what the Lions have to do to stop him, which is simply tackle. After a solid start to the season, where the Lions defenders were tackling anything and everything, they have really had a bad couple of weeks, where they had trouble bringing down Michael Turner and Frank Gore. With Tebow, it will be ultra-critical that the first guy gets him to the ground. He has a tendency of hanging on to the ball for way too long, and the Lions front seven needs to take advantage of that.
Pressure alone actually won’t get him to the ground at times. The Dolphins actually sacked Tebow seven times last Sunday, but the Broncos still came away with the win. The key will be to constantly get him to the ground and, more importantly, to stop him from getting first downs on the ground. I think if the Lions can do those two things, they should be able to keep the Broncos offense, which doesn’t have much of any proven threats on the outside, in check.
Overall, I predict another solid performance from the Lions defense, and I expect them to hold Tebow and the Broncos to fewer than 14 points in this game.