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Chiefs get creative in preparation for Tebow and Denver's zone-read option

Posted Nov 10, 2011

WR Jerheme Urban is helping the Chiefs defense prepare for Tim Tebow's rushing ability

A pair of reserve players, neither of which has seen a live snap since the Chiefs Week Two loss in Detroit, will play a big role in Kansas City’s preparation this week for the Denver Broncos.

Tyler Palko, a left-handed backup quarterback, and Jerheme Urban, a speedy backup wide receiver with eventual coaching aspirations, have morphed into the role of Tim Tebow this week for the Chiefs scout team offense.

Palko handles much of the throwing. Urban simulates the run game.

“It’s good we’ve got a lefty quarterback in Tyler, who’s extremely athletic, but at the same time I don’t want to hit our backup quarterback in practice and have something happen there,” head coach Todd Haley said. “I’ve got to look out for the team and he’s our No. 2 quarterback that has to be healthy.

“Urban is a big, strong receiver who was a quarterback in high school, that is fast and can throw and run. It’s going to be a full-team project this week of just trying to make sure that we’re ready in all phases.”

In an effort of playing to Tebow’s strengths, Denver brings a very college-like offensive mix into Arrowhead Stadium this Sunday.

The Broncos shredded an undisciplined and unprepared Raiders run defense for 298 yards last weekend thanks to a steady dose of the zone-read option.

“Wildcat really is a lot of what you see at times, but the difference is that generally the guys running the wildcat aren’t the quarterback,” Haley explained. “So, you’ve got the quarterback running the option, which then makes it a triple threat. Tim is extremely comfortable in that. It’s going to be a great challenge and we need to do a great job on our show teams in helping our defense prepare.”

The option game left Oakland defenders in a state of flux while Tebow operated out of the shotgun with RB Willis McGahee.

If the defensive end crashed inside, Tebow pulled the football out from McGahee’s belly and exploited the defensive edge. When Oakland overcommitted to Tebow, McGahee found success against out of position, less aggressive defenders.

“It’s kind of a college offense, but with NFL players,” LB Derrick Johnson said. “It brings a different way to prepare coming into this game. You have to be more disciplined and you have to know how they can hurt you and what their game plan is coming into the game.”

McGahee exited the Black Hole with 163 rushing yards while Tebow added another 117. The pair rallied off six runs of 17 yards or more to help Denver roll up 38 points despite throwing for just 124 yards.

Tebow completed less than 50% of his passes in the Broncos' win.

“He’s hard to defend,” Johnson said. “People knock him for being inaccurate, but he poses a lot of problems and you must have a sound game plan.”

Denver has steadily changed its offensive approach in the three weeks since Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the Broncos’ starting quarterback. At times, the approach has mirrored the Florida-style offense that saw Tebow become one of the most prolific players in college football history.

Last week’s success running the zone-read option, a play typically reserved for college football, has many wondering if Broncos head coach John Fox will commit to a full-scale option attack.

“I wonder why teams don’t run it more,” Johnson said. “It’s something that makes people get out of their comfort zone and play a different type of ball. They have to be more disciplined. Everybody has to be assigned to something on the running game and it’s a good scheme knowing that you have a quarterback who can actually take a pounding and Tebow is one of those guys.”

The longstanding NFL belief is that defensive linemen are too fast, and the pounding on quarterbacks too heavy, for an option-style offense to work effectively over an extended period of time.

But there is some precedence.

Atlanta toyed with the idea of running an option-style attack when Michael Vick was the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Vick ran for 1,039 yards in 2006. It’s the only time in NFL history that a quarterback has topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark.

Stretching Tebow’s rushing average as a starter over a 16-game season would put him on pace to set a new NFL quarterback rushing record with nearly 1,300 yards.

“His toughness is a quality that really makes him challenging because it affects so many things,” Haley said. “He’s not afraid to take on tacklers when he needs to, which means he breaks tackles.

Meanwhile, Urban is taking a pounding this week as the Chiefs defense works on defending Tebow as a runner. Palko has been on the run as well, handling the look of Tebow as a left-handed scrambler.

“It’s going to take our entire team to get ready from a show standpoint of who’s running what,” Haley said. “I believe it’s a big challenge because they are by no means limited to (the option). You see the quarterback under center in two-back and they run and throw out of that. You see empty sets in which they throw and run. You see a bunch of the different versions of some sort of option going on.”

As for the possibility of Denver going with a full-time option-style offense this Sunday…

“I wouldn’t be sad if we didn’t see it,” Haley said.

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