- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CINCINNATI -- Tim Tebow's highly anticipated debut went as expected: He made a few plays with his feet, he threw a bad ball that ended up in the wrong team's hands and he laughed about his less-than-auspicious unveiling on special teams.
Tebow provided a little juice in an otherwise dreary performance by the New York Jets in their 17-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Friday night at Paul Brown Stadium, but that was about it. He worked exclusively with the second-team offense and there were no Wildcat plays.
In other words, the same questions still exist. The mystique lives.
Basically, Tebow and Mark Sanchez existed in separate worlds in the preseason opener for both teams. We won't get the full feel of the Sanchez-Tebow dynamic until those worlds collide, and that might not happen until the regular season, when Tebow gets time with the starters in the Wildcat.
This was as vanilla as it gets.
"I was just out there, playing football, having a lot of fun," Tebow said.
For the record, Tebow replaced Sanchez at the start of the second quarter, leading four possessions (not including a kneel down) and leading the second unit to a field goal. He took 22 snaps, only one in the shotgun formation.
For Tebow-maniacs, the good news is that he was involved in four of the Jets' six longest plays of the game -- three runs and a pass.
But that's not good news for the Jets, who showed no offensive spark whatsoever. When the backup quarterback leads your team in rushing, as Tebow did with 34 yards on four scrambles, it's not a flattering commentary on the offense.
As a passer, Tebow (4-for-8, 27 yards) seemed a bit hesitant on some of his reads and he was off the mark on a 5-yard pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland -- a killer interception at the Bengals' 26-yard line.
"I liked the poise he showed," Rex Ryan said of Tebow. "Obviously, [he] made some big runs and that's what we say he can do. If you want to come after him, you better get to him. In time, he'll kill you running, and that's what he did."
Tebow was fun to watch, running around the pocket, dodging tacklers. On his fourth play, he made a terrific run for 14 yards. It might have been the play of the night for the Jets.
Mind you, these weren't designed running plays, they were just Tebow being Tebow. But he might not get those opportunities in the regular season because, if we believe what the Jets are saying, he won't be a quarterback in the conventional offense.
"I feel like I'm getting better every day," Tebow said. "I felt like my timing and rhythm was pretty good for the most part."
Except for his last throw, the interception. He tried to throw it low and outside, but it wasn't low and outside enough. It was picked off by rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict. It was a bad decision. He should've looked the other way and thrown a swing pass to Joe McKnight.
"There was no reason to force that throw," he said. "It was a heck of a catch by the kid and a stupid play by me."
The Jets' offense, under new coordinator Tony Sparano, was flat. They couldn't move the ball, but they didn't have their top playmaker, wide receiver Santonio Holmes (ribs). They also didn't have another key playmaker -- Tebow, operating the Wildcat.
Ryan believes that will change the complexion of the offense, and he took delight in telling reporters that he received a 7 a.m. phone call Thursday from Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, an old friend from their days with the Baltimore Ravens.
"I know nobody is worried about the Wildcat, that's it's really easy to stop," Ryan said sarcastically. "That's why I got a call from Marvin about not wanting to see the Wildcat. I'm the only guy that thinks it has a place in the NFL, me and every defensive coach in the league."
Funny, but after five months of buildup to his debut with the Jets, Tebow missed his cue. After their first three-and-out, he went to the bench area to huddle with the quarterbacks instead of taking his place as the personal protector on the punt team. He was late, but made it for the punt.
"I was like, 'Oh, shoot, I'm supposed to be out there,'" he said, laughing. "I got out there a few seconds late because that was the first time in my life that I had to be out there for special teams. I have to remember that better next time."