|National Football League|
Jets, Tebow get to work on wildcat package
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) Shhh! The New York Jets worked on the wildcat.
Yes, Tim Tebow was involved, of course. And the elusive backup quarterback felt pretty good doing it.
As for other details, though, they're off limits. That qualifies as top-secret information around these parts.
"We put a couple of wildcat plays in there and I think that was good," coach Rex Ryan said Monday. "It just kind of gives you a different look out there."
The practice was the first in which the Jets extensively worked with the wildcat package with Tebow in front of the media during training camp. But it was closed to the public, and the media - per team rules - were restricted from reporting specifics about how the Jets used it and with what personnel.
"Well, it's fun," a smiling Tebow said when asked if it was nice to finally practice the tricky scheme. "Anytime you get the opportunity to go out there and run around a little bit and play football, it's always fun."
So, Tim, what particular type of football were you playing out there?
"Umm," Tebow said, "I just played the football that they asked me to play."
Get the picture?
The Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) don't want any of their plans for Tebow to leak out to opponents because they want to maintain an element of surprise during the season.
"It's part of our scheme and strategy," starting quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "Can't divulge those details."
It made for a humorous scene as a smiling Sanchez deferred to offensive coordinator Tony Sparano at the mere mention of the wildcat offense. He laughed when it was suggested that reporters should talk to third-string quarterback Greg McElroy, who took some flak in the offseason for being outspoken about the problems in the team's locker room last season.
"We'll get a couple of clips on him and attach him to a car battery," Sanchez joked, "and rev that thing if he gets squirrely."
On Monday, the Jets unveiled the wildcat with just the offense on the field during a walkthrough period, and later ran it with the defense out there in team drills. New York didn't use it at all in its preseason-opening loss at Cincinnati last Friday, and there's no guarantee the Jets will run it against the Giants on Saturday night. But starting Sept. 9 against Buffalo in the regular-season opener, there could be plenty of Tebow and the wildcat.
"I trust Coach Sparano with it and however he thinks the best way to use it is, that's what we'll do," Sanchez said. "I know the entire offense has full faith in him, and we're excited about the scheme."
Mum's the word for now, with a level of secrecy that made even Tebow chuckle.
"I also don't know if I've ever seen this much interest," he said. "I don't know if it's secretive. We're running our offense and our plays and our reads. It's part of the offense for us."
New York provided a small glimpse into its plan for Tebow and its wildcat-style formation on Aug. 2 during goal-line drills, but had not worked specifically on the scheme until Monday. The players were told Sunday night during the team meeting that it would be run during their next practice.
As Ryan has insisted, it appears the wildcat will be at least a small part of Sparano's offense with Tebow around. Sparano helped make the scheme popular a few years ago with running back Ronnie Brown when he was the coach of the Miami Dolphins, and Tebow was clearly brought in to be the guy to make it work in New York.
"They've seen Miami run the wildcat more than anybody, so they get an idea of what our plays are," Ryan said. "But still, you have a different guy back there at quarterback, you can throw the ball more. There are different elements to it where even though you've seen it before and it's on tape, having him back there specifically I think opens more pass opportunities and things like that than maybe most wildcat situations.
The Jets used quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brad Smith in their wildcat formation for five seasons before he signed with Buffalo as a free agent last summer, and also used running back Leon Washington in a version of it. Once Smith left, the Jets were left without a reliable option in the wildcat - one of the main reasons they acquired Tebow in March.
Tebow ran a run-read option style of offense at the University of Florida and did some of the same during his first two NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos.
"Even in high school, too," he said. "So, it's something I'm very comfortable with."
For how many snaps and when it'll be used, well, that all remains to be seen.
"The great thing is, you don't know if we're going to run it once and you don't know if we're going to run it 20 times, 50 times or whatever," Ryan said. "It's up to us. If you're not prepared for it, why wouldn't we run it?"
When asked if the wildcat could become increasingly featured as the season goes along, Ryan went with a line he has used a few times this summer: "Hey," he said brushing off the question, "anything's possible."
Some around the league have suggested that the wildcat can no longer be effective in the NFL after defenses caught up to it during the last few seasons. Not so, said Ryan, who insists it remains one of the more difficult aspects of the game for a defense to prepare for.
And with the 250-pound Tebow in the mix, that's exactly what the Jets are counting on.
"I think it can be a weapon," Sanchez said. "I think if you run it the right way like Coach Sparano will do, we can get explosive with it. We have some great athletes and we want to use all of their talents."
NOTES: Ryan thinks it's unlikely WR Santonio Holmes (rib), NT Sione Pouha (forehead/back), S Eric Smith (knee) or WR Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) will play against the Giants. ... LG Matt Slauson downplayed beating Vladimir Ducasse for the starting job, and declined to discuss recently taking a paycut in the last year of his rookie contract. "I don't want to get into that," he said.
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Updated August 13, 2012