Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow possesses a unique set of skills, and the Patriots know they'll have to prepare accordingly.
Bill Belichick said on Tuesday that the Patriots will consider using a scout team quarterback in practice this week who can simulate Tebow's style.
"That's something we definitely have to talk about," Belichick said. "The most important thing for our defense is to get a good look at as close to what the actual plays are going to look like as we can replicate them. However we do that, whichever players we use to try to get that look -- we'll definitely talk about that and try to do it in the way that gives the defense the best look at it."
Belichick did not say who will be playing Tebow in practice, but there will be no perfect match. Tebow is the rare quarterback who runs with power. At times, he'll initiate contact and fight for yards while other signal-callers may slide before they can be touched. And he's just one part of Denver's league-leading rushing attack. Willis McGahee, a nine-year NFL vet, has 920 yards rushing. Tebow has amassed 517 yards on the ground in 94 attempts -- good enough for a 5.5 yards per carry average.
The Patriots know they'll have to focus on stopping Denver's ground game, no matter who carries the ball.
"They have a lot of confidence in it," Belichick said. "They call them, they don't get discouraged with it, they hang with it. They try to get it worked out if a play is not going well. They hit you on a lot of different points of attack, different scheme runs. Of course the quarterback has put up quite a few yards himself. Also their option plays, the option, dive option program, that type of thing. There's a lot of different ways they get that rushing yardage in bursts. They really test your defense all the way across the board from the pass rush contain the quarterback standpoint, to playing the normal run-block type of plays to their kind of specialty plays, element of Wildcat, quarterback scrambling, things like that. They get you on a lot of different levels."
If Tebow's running, it adds a whole new element to Denver's offense. Belichick put the Tebow advantage in plain terms: When Tebow runs the ball, the Broncos essentially gain a player on offense.
"Offensively it gives you an extra blocker somewhere or it takes a defender out depending on what formation you use," Belichick said. "It really puts everybody in play, whereas on a normal running play, the quarterback hands the ball off to somebody else and acts out of the play at the point he hands it off. The quarterback, in an offense that runs the ball, he has the whole other 10 people to block for him or to force the defense to catch or cover him in some way which drags a defender out of it. It's like gaining an extra player schematically."
Before the 2010 NFL Draft, it appeared as though the Patriots might be interested in selecting Tebow. Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said the Patriots always thought of the former Florida Gator as a quarterback, not a running back, full back or tight end. Tebow was viewed as a project coming out of Florida, but the Patriots were particularly struck by Tebow's intelligence and work ethic.
"I think any meeting you have with a draft prospect, you're just trying to get as much information as you possibly you can," Caserio said. "You look at the body of the work on the field, you look at their production, then spend some time with them off the field, just go through and talk through some different things, football related. Smart guy, works hard, was a productive player in Florida. I'd say it was a lot like most of the meetings that we have with a lot of the players when they come out."
Belichick was equally impressed by Tebow in the Pats' day-long meeting with him at Foxborough.
"He's an impressive young man," Belichick said. "He had great success in college. I think all his attributes are pretty well documented. He's a strong guy, smart, works hard, a great leader, great football character."