Tim Tebow stars at practice

Updated: August 8, 2012, 7:08 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Four plays into Wednesday's practice, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan decided to change quarterbacks. He called for "the other guy," as he called him.

Out went Mark Sanchez, who told Ryan he wanted to stay in. In came the most popular "other guy" in the NFL, Tim Tebow.

A quarterback controversy already? No, it wasn't like that.

Ryan wanted to see Tebow perform with Jets' first-team offense and face the starting defense in a blitz-heavy, third-down period. On his second and final snap with the starters, Tebow escaped a blitzing linebacker and threw a 60-yard touchdown to Patrick Turner.

Tebow As far as rhythm and tempo and getting through my progressions, this was one of my best days.

-- Jets QB Tim Tebow

Oh, by the way, Tebow beat the Jets last season by scoring against the same defensive call -- "blitz-zero," meaning an all-out blitz with no safeties in coverage. As soon as he hit Turner, Tebow reminded the Jets' defensive coaches of that.

"We were laughing at that," said Tebow, who scored on a 20-yard run in the final minute for one of his Mile High miracles.

Tebow enjoyed perhaps his best day in training camp Wednesday, later hitting tight end Jeff Cumberland for a 50-yard touchdown in a 7-on-7 drill.

Ryan was pleased with both quarterbacks. He said Sanchez was "so hot ... and can't get any hotter" that he decided to make the switch.

"He's feeling good, he's champing at the bit, he's like, 'I need the reps,'" Ryan said of Sanchez. "(I was like), 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' So I just put him over there. He's fine, he's ready to go, he's itching to go, but let's see the other guy."

It wasn't the first time Tebow practiced with the starting unit -- he recalled one or two reps earlier in camp -- but this was different because he got a crack at the first-team defense.

"It's not really a big deal to me," said Tebow, downplaying the opportunity.

The Jets have been careful not to blur the line between Sanchez and Tebow, clearly stating that the former is the undisputed No. 1. So why give Tebow a couple of reps?

Tebow has shown a propensity for holding the ball too long, and the Jets figured he'd speed up his release if he faced heavy blitzing in a period devoted to third-and-long plays.

Bigger quarterbacks like Tebow tend to hold the ball longer, thinking they can break away from would-be tacklers. Under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, the Jets have emphasized a quick tempo -- make a read, deliver the ball. In fact, they use a buzzer/timer during practice.

"We're trying to get the ball out Tim's hands faster," Ryan said.

When Tebow felt pressure, he did what he does best -- improvise.

Facing a maximum blitz, he eluded linebacker Bart Scott, rolled to his left and looked downfield for Turner, who got behind cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The same thing happened last November when he beat the Jets while with Denver, except that he eluded safety Eric Smith and ran it in.

Tebow relished the moment -- again, making sure the coaches knew.

"I don't remember the conversation," Ryan deadpanned.

If it had been a real game, Scott might have sacked Tebow, according to Ryan, who always gives the benefit of the doubt to his defense. Either way, Tebow liked the way he performed in the team's 10th practice.

"As far as rhythm and tempo and getting through my progressions, this was one of my best days," he said.

Sparano said Tebow is doing a better job of recognizing defensive fronts and delivering the ball faster on quick throws. He's also throwing a better ball than he did early in camp.

"I think the ball, every day, is coming off his hand a lot better," Sparano said.

The Jets haven't said how much Tebow will play in the preseason opener Friday night in Cincinnati, but he'll replace Sanchez after about a quarter. The plan is to use the offensive starters for 12 to 15 plays. Ryan said he doubts Tebow will get any work with the starters.

Sparano didn't rule out the possibility of using Tebow in the Wildcat, saying, "There's always a chance."

In camp, they've only run one Wildcat play with Tebow, who kept the ball and ran for a short touchdown.

From all indications, Sanchez didn't make a stink Wednesday about coming out for two reps -- even though Ryan said the QB didn't want to come out. In years past, Sanchez fumed whenever he was told to sit for a few plays in practice. In the future, it could become an issue. For now, it was a chance to see "the other guy" with the starters.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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