Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Friday, March 30, 2012
How Tim Tebow affects the AFC East

By James Walker

Tim Tebow
The Jets plan to take advantage of Tim Tebow's running ability in the Wildcat next season.

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It was approximately 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, and a grumpy Bill Belichick wanted no part of discussing the AFC East's newest addition: Jets quarterback Tim Tebow.

"I'm just concentrating on our team," the New England Patriots coach said bluntly.

Does Tebow impact what the Patriots do defensively?

"I'm just trying to get better in the offseason, like we always do," Belichick scoffed.

The media kept trying with Tebow, but Belichick kept swatting it away.

"I'm trying to get ready with what we're doing," Belichick said. "I'm not really worried about the other three [division] teams."

Belichick wasn't interested in Tebow-mania. But, eventually, will Belichick's Patriots have a problem on their hands? Does the rest of the AFC East have a problem, as well?

"I think the Wildcat is alive and well," an excited Jets head coach Rex Ryan said this week at the NFL owners meeting.

Here's how Tebow and the Wildcat matches up with the other three teams in the AFC East. The Tebow trouble meter is based on a 10-point scale, with a 10 meaning he'll be a huge headache for a team to defend:

Patriots

Analysis: Tebow had mixed results against the Patriots in two games last season. Tebow had a field day in the first meeting, particularly early. He rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns, as the Patriots seemed caught off-guard by Denver's offense in the regular season. The Broncos led 16-7 at one point before the Patriots' offense took over and scored 27 unanswered points. New England won 41-23.

The second meeting against Tebow was more one-sided in favor of the Patriots. New England was much more prepared for Tebow's read-option offense. He rushed for just 13 yards on five carries (2.6 yard average). Tebow actually gained 14 yards rushing on one play, but his other four attempts lost yards. Tebow also lost a fumble and New England won easily, 45-10.

In two games against New England, Tebow rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots have to prove that their postseason performance against the Broncos is more indicative of how they will stop Tebow in 2012, as opposed to the regular-season meeting.

Tebow trouble meter: 7

Buffalo Bills

Analysis: The Bills were the most prepared team against Tebow and the Broncos last season. Buffalo pummeled Tebow in Week 16 in a 40-14 victory. He threw three interceptions in the game and also lost a fumble. It was one of Tebow's worst performances of the year.

Bills head coach Chan Gailey believes his team was well-prepared for Tebow's read-option offense because the Bills have their own Wildcat package featuring versatile receiver/quarterback Brad Smith. Gailey is hopeful Buffalo's success against Tebow continues next season.

"We will get some work against the Wildcat-type offense in training camp, if nothing else," Gailey said. "To be honest, one of the reasons we have it is we think it is a definite advantage. What we say is this, 'If you got something that's unusual, the coaches are going to take an hour to sit down and talk about it, and you get on the field and do a 10-minute walkthrough on the Wildcat and in practice, out of 45 plays, teams will take maybe five of them on the Wildcat.'"

It also helps that the Bills invested a ton of money this offseason on their defensive line. Free-agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson should do a great job setting the edge against the Wildcat, which is key. Buffalo's defense has had other issues in the past, such as rushing the quarterback. But I don't see Tebow and the Wildcat giving the Bills too many problems based on the additions and what I saw last season.

Tebow trouble meter: 4

Miami Dolphins

Analysis: The Dolphins are an interesting case. They were the masters of the Wildcat under former head coach Tony Sparano. Now, Sparano is bringing the package to the Jets as their new offensive coordinator.

"I think it's hilarious," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "With Tony, everybody looks at this rough, tough, bloody-your-nose type of guy, which he is. But he’s very creative also, one of the most creative guys I’ve been around. I’m excited with what he can do with a guy with the skill set that Tim has."

There are still players on the Dolphins, both on offense and defense, who know the formation well.

However, Miami will be as far removed from the Wildcat as possible under first-year head coach Joe Philbin. The Dolphins are implementing a classic West Coast offense based on timing, precision and rhythm. The Wildcat goes against all that. So there won't be much prep time against Tebow until the week leading up to the Jets games.

Miami did a good job for more than three quarters against Tebow last season at Sun Life Stadium. Denver was scoreless until the final 2 minutes, 44 seconds of the game and pulled off a miraculous comeback by scoring 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and overtime. That game actually jump-started Tebow-mania.

Miami is stout against the run. But Tebow rushed for 59 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry against Miami. The Dolphins need to do a better job of stopping Tebow in their two meetings next season.

Tebow trouble meter: 7

Overall, Tebow has a chance to make an impact in the AFC East. But his success will vary, depending on the matchup. Tebow won't be able to win many games by himself with limited snaps as New York's backup quarterback. It will be up to starter Mark Sanchez to do his part with the passing offense for the Jets to reach their offensive potential.