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Sizing up Tebow’s audition in Denver

Tim Tebow

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) reacts after the Broncos lost 29-24 in an NFL football game to the San Diego Chargers, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)


We’re checking in with each team as they hit their bye week to look at the state of their season. The Broncos are up next.

We’ve already handled the Chargers, Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens, Dolphins, and Browns.

Defense matters

For all the hand-wringing about Kyle Orton, the 1-4 Broncos are 19th in points-per-game. That’s exactly what they were a year ago. The defense is the bigger problem. They are 30th in points allowed. They were 32nd last year.

A healthy Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey will help this group immeasurably, but it’s a terrible-looking front against the run. The defensive tackle group is as bad as there is in football.

And a Tebow shall lead them

Orton’s demotion was more about Orton than it was about Tim Tebow. Orton was making too many mistakes.

If Tebow’s one half of play is any indication, Denver’s offense is in for a bumpy but interesting ride. The Tebow 2.0 era started with three straight three-and-outs, which included some McNabb-like ground ball throws. Tebow’s decision making was slow and he came off his first read to run around too quickly.

He may be a competitor, but can he throw the ball and make decisions at the NFL level?

Tebow is a huge weapon in the running game and when he’s freelancing. He led two touchdown drives on short fields against San Diego. The two big factors: A perfect screen play call, and Tebow’s ability to run. They will be a different type of offense to prepare for.

Orton was forced to move and avoid the pass rush too much. That’s not his strength. Tebow is a better fit to extend plays.

A test for coaching staff

The team needs to change how they run their offense with Tebow. It’s going to be a run-heavy approach leaning on Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno. McGahee has quietly enjoyed some big weeks. Moreno has been hurt and looks like a third-down back.

The staff can’t just expect to run Tebow out there using the same plays they called for Orton. They need to get creative.

Returning receivers

Last year’s first-round pick Demaryius Thomas and injured starter Eddie Royal will both return to the field. This will give Tebow more weapons to play with. We saw too much of Matthew Willis and Daniel Fells on Sunday.

Made right choice with Von Miller

Despite his Week 5 benching, it’s clear the Broncos hit on a star with No. 2 overall pick Von Miller. He has five sacks and tons of QB pressures. Opponents are starting to target Miller in coverage and in the run game, but the rookie is already a premier pass rusher. He’ll learn.

Where is Foxball?

The quarterback controversy has distracted from the fact John Fox has yet to significantly improve the Broncos defense. The tackling is especially poor. Showing progress on defense before the end of the year is a must.

Tebow’s audition

Tim Tebow has 11 weeks to prove he’s Denver’s quarterback of the future. It’s an uphill battle because Fox and John Elway haven’t embraced him as that kind of player. We suspect Brady Quinn would get a shot late in the year if Tebow really struggled.

The Broncos get the Chiefs twice, the Vikings, and the Dolphins in the second half. If Denver can’t win most of those games, they will be staring at a 3-13 or 4-12 type of year. The rest of the schedule is difficult.

Tebow needs to help the Broncos win games now so that Elway isn’t in position to draft his replacement in April.