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How does Tebow balance life, football?

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How does Tebow balance life, football?

From Comcast SportsNet
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- There's a quarterback Tim Tebow can't wait to meet while in Buffalo for a pivotal late-season game. A special guest showing up at his request. And no, it's not former Bills star Jim Kelly. Tebow is bringing in Jacob Rainey, a highly touted prep player from a private school in Virginia who had part of his right leg amputated after a severe knee injury during a fall scrimmage. Tebow is looking forward to chatting with Rainey before and again after the Denver Broncos' game against the Bills on Saturday. For as dedicated as Tebow is about improving on the field, he's just as devoted to his engagements off it. That's why losses really don't linger. He's already turned the page after the Broncos' 41-23 home loss to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday. "I'll move on and continue to be positive and everything," Tebow said Tuesday. As if he knows any other way. Tebow has become the center of the football universe since guiding the Broncos (8-6) from the brink of playoff extinction back into contention. Denver leads the AFC West by a game over Oakland and San Diego after rebounding from a 1-4 start under Kyle Orton. The Broncos are in prime position to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season. Tebow's name and image have been popping up all over as he's appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, been mentioned at the Republican debate in Iowa and spoofed during a "Saturday Night Live" skit in which the show playfully mocks his faith. Although Tebow hasn't seen the clip yet, his teammates have watched it. "I've heard some players have been laughing about it a little bit," Tebow said. Tebow doesn't mind all the attention. It gives him a platform for his causes, such as the Tim Tebow Foundation's "Wish 15" program. On Sunday, he brought in Kelly Faughnan, who is dealing with tumors and seizures. "It gives her an opportunity to have a good time and gives her a little hope and puts a smile on her face," Tebow said. "Ultimately, that's what's important. As hard as it is to say it, that's more important than even winning or losing the game." With every passing game, Tebow steadily improves in the passing department. Sure, his mechanics are still rough and his style unorthodox. But he's making far better reads and decisions than he was several weeks ago. "He's not afraid, no stranger to hard work," coach John Fox said. "He works as hard as any player I've ever coached." Tebow even received quite a backing from the boss himself, John Elway, who gave his strongest indication yet in an interview with The Associated Press that he believes Tebow can transform from a scrambling quarterback into a pocket passer. That meant a lot to the young quarterback. "Mr. Elway is obviously one of the best to ever play the game. To get any compliment from him is extremely nice," said Tebow, 5-0 on the road since taking over the starting job. "He's been around this game a long time. That's nice to hear." Bills coach Chan Gailey applauds Denver's bold choice of switching to the unconventional option offense to better fit Tebow's unique skill set. Gailey always believed that approach could be successful -- for a short window anyway. "I thought the first team that had guts enough to try it, it was going to work for about two years," Gailey said. "Then, defensive coaches in the NFL would catch up to it a little bit. Then, it would be a struggle." Tebow has proficiently run this offense, just like he did at Florida, where he won the Heisman and two national titles. He has rushed for 610 yards this season, the most by a Denver quarterback and easily surpassing Elway's best mark (304 yards in 1987). To Gailey, there's just one potential flaw with using the read option -- keeping the quarterback healthy. That's a reason why it really hasn't been tried to the extent it has until now. But Tebow's built to deliver a few wallops, too. "It's a long season. You take a lot of hits. You take a lot of hits when you're not running option football," Gailey said. "Can the guy make (it through) the season? That's the key. But he's the ultimate wildcat kind of guy. He can run it and he can throw it from the quarterback position. He creates a big problem for defenses." The biggest challenge remains keeping him in the pocket. Allowing Tebow to escape presents all sorts of headaches. Because that's what makes Tebow so explosive, when he's able to make things happen with his feet. "The last time I judged quarterbacks, which has been every day of my life it seems like, you're judged by winning football games," Gailey said. "That's what he does. He wins football games. It's probably not in the fashion that everyone in the NFL is used to, but he's leading his team to victory and that's an important factor for playing the quarterback position." Winning isn't everything to Tebow. His faith and foundation are just as high of priorities, too. Tebow's foundation is teaming up with CURE International to build a children's hospital in the Philippines, where Tebow was born. He also inspires inmates through jailhouse talks. "Ultimately, that's taking my platform and using it for something good, more so than any SNL' skit or any magazine," Tebow said. As for what he wanted for the holidays, Tebow didn't hesitate. "To use my platform for good," he said, "and to beat the Bills."

Bears have good news on Trey Burton, but tight end questions linger

Bears have good news on Trey Burton, but tight end questions linger

DECATUR, Ill. — The Bears do not expect Trey Burton to begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, clearing up a question that’s lingered ever since the team revealed the tight end underwent sports hernia surgery earlier this year. 

But while Burton will participate to some extent in camp — general manager Ryan Pace said the team will be “smart” about his workload — the Bears will nonetheless have some important questions to answer about their group of tight ends in the coming weeks. 

Specifically: The Bears can help Mitch Trubisky be a more efficient and productive quarterback by being more effective when using 12 personnel (two tight ends, one running back). It’s an area of the offense Matt Nagy wasn’t able to maximize in 2018, with Adam Shaheen missing more than half the season due to a foot injury and a concussion, and Dion Sims proving to be ineffective when he was on the field. 

“It's all predicated based off of matchups, and so who are you going against and do you like your tight ends or do you like your other skill guys,” Nagy said. 

Ideally, Shaheen will be more available than he has been over his first two years in the league, during which he’s missed 13 games. The same goes for Burton: The Bears’ offense struggled to overcome his sudden absence in the playoffs, with the trickle-down effect being the Philadelphia Eagles successfully limiting what Tarik Cohen could do in that loss. 

The Bears like their receivers — it’s arguably the deepest unit on the team — and primarily used 11 personnel last year (three receivers, one tight end, one running back) with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller the primary targets. With Cordarrelle Patterson and Riley Ridley now on the roster, it’s may be unrealistic to expect the Bears to use 12 personnel any more frequently than they did last year (17 percent, which was even with the NFL average). 

But when the Bears do use 12 personnel, there’s room for improvement in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. While in 12 personnel in 2018, the Bears averaged about a yard per carry and two yards per pass attempt less than league average; Trubisky and Chase Daniel combined for a passer rating of 85 in 12 personnel, about 17 points lower than the league average. 

The point here is that throwing out of 12 personnel is, per Warren Sharp’s 2019 Football Preview, is more efficient than throwing from 11 personnel. It makes sense: 12 personnel forces teams to play their base defense instead of having five defensive backs on the field in nickel. Getting the athleticism of Burton and Shaheen matched up against linebackers more frequently would seem to be a positive for the Bears. 

The Bears liked what they saw from Shaheen during training camp last year before he injured his foot in a preseason game, and Pace was pleased with how the 2017 second-round pick looked during spring practices. 

“Very encouraged last year, very encouraged in the preseason, and he knows this, he’s just got to stay healthy,” Pace said. “He’s had a great offseason. He’s just got to keep on stacking positive day after positive day. Same thing with Trey. And we’re excited about (Ben) Braunecker. There are a lot of younger pieces in play. We’re excited to see that play out. 

“Nagy utilizes the tight end position a lot. Part of it, especially for Shaheen, is just staying healthy.”

Shaheen still is a relative unknown, though. The Bears haven’t seen him handle a large workload much — he played more than 50 percent of the offensive snaps in a given game just three times in his career. He’s only logged 17 receptions and 175 yards since entering the league; Burton surpassed those totals against the AFC East in 2018 (four games, 18 receptions, 195 yards). 

Bradley Sowell (a converted offensive lineman) and the group of Dax Raymond, Ian Bunting, Jesper Horsted and Ellis Richardson (undrafted free agents) are even more unknown in terms of tight end depth, too. How the Bears are able to develop depth at both the “Y” (in-line) and “U” (move) tight end positions in Bourbonnais will be an important storyline to follow. 

Last week, we looked at how passing to running backs on first down can help Trubisky and the Bears’ offense be better in 2019. Consider better production from 12 personnel to be another path to the kind of critical offensive growth the Bears need. 

As Bears' critical kicking competition starts back up, Ryan Pace is keeping his options open

As Bears' critical kicking competition starts back up, Ryan Pace is keeping his options open

DECATUR, Ill. — The Bears will report to Bourbonnais for training camp on Thursday with everything on the table regarding their kicking competition — well, everything but making a trade for Robbie Gould. 

Elliott Fry or Eddy Pineiro could emerge from training camp and four preseason games as the clear-cut choice to be the Bears’ placekicker when the 2019 season opens Sept. 5 against the Green Bay Packers. Alternatively, both could not do enough to convince Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and the Bears’ brass that they’re the solution to the most glaring weakness on an otherwise Super Bowl-caliber roster. 

So not only will Pineiro and Fry be competing against each other, they’ll be competing against a group of kickers around the league who could wind up on the trading block or the waiver wire in the coming weeks. 

"We’re watching all the teams, all the competitive situations around the league — one of them will be kicker," Pace said. "We’re just watching that progress as we go forward. We know right now where we stand, where some of those battles are occurring. We’re watching those. And I’m sure there will be ones that will pop up that might surprise us."
 
The first 11 questions of Pace and Matt Nagy’s pre-training-camp press conference on Sunday involved the kicking position in some way, an indication of a few things. 

First and foremost is what’s at stake for the Bears with this kicking battle. 2018’s season ended well short of the Super Bowl when Cody Parkey’s 43-yard kick double-doinked off the uprights at Soldier Field; if the 2019 Bears — with a stronger roster — suffer the same fate, it’ll go down as one of the biggest, most gutting disappointments in franchise history. 

Second is an indication of how deep the Bears’ roster is: What else, really, is there to talk about in terms of training camp battles besides kicker? There will be a heated competition at the bottom of the team’s wide receiver depth chart, and the Bears need better play (and better health) from their tight ends. But this is a strong, talented roster across all units — except for kicker. 

That’s not to say the Bears aren’t without their questions, from how good Mitch Trubisky will be to how the defense adjusts to Chuck Pagano’s scheme to how this team handles the high expectations created by 2018’s success. But those are topics that’ll play out during the regular season; the kicking battle has to be solved by Week 1’s kickoff. 

And final reason for the "hyper focus," as Pace put it, on the kicking competition is the overwhelming interest in the topic from fans. Bears chairman George McCaskey said on Sunday his team’s kicking situation has come up in every interaction he’s had with fans over the last six and a half months. 

“Thanks for the reminder,” McCaskey said he’s responded. “We’re working on that.”

How the competition between Fry and Pineiro plays out in Bourbonnais and then into preseason games will be fascinating to follow. Nagy hinted during the spring at throwing some curveballs at each kicker, and while he said Sunday he doesn’t plan on calling for field goal attempts on third down during preseason games, he did say he’s going to do what he can to make sure each kicker gets as many chances as possible to be evaluated. 

“We need to figure out this position, right? We need to understand it’s a crucial spot first we’ve got to get right,” Nagy said. “I think the more opportunities that you have for these guys to prove who the are and what they could do, we’ll take ‘em. 

“So there may be some questionable playcalls in the preseason. I’ll just leave it at that and we’ll go from there.”

For now, Pace characterized Fry and Pineiro as “even” heading into training camp. So may the best kicker win, whether he'll be in Bourbonnais on Thursday or not. 

“Those guys are going to battle it out,” Pace said. “Obviously we’re scouring the waiver wire as we go forward. And it’s kind of open competition.”