Key Matchup: Tebow vs. backup front four

Tim Tebow comes to the NFL with incredible hype and several on-field flaws. Tonight could be his most extensive action, but the Vikings' backups could be looking for a statement play or two against him as well.

When scouts went to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl practices, many were left unimpressed by quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow looked awful in his first couple of days of Senior Bowl workouts. While he showed improvement as the week progressed, the reality was that, once considered a borderline first-round pick, Tebow's stock dropped into the third- or fourth-round range. He would rally up draft boards as the draft neared – to the point that Denver made him its first-round pick, which many still consider a major reach. He has won over the fans of Denver and become the darling of the jersey-sales industry. But when the Broncos close out the preseason against the Vikings at the Metrodome, all eyes will be on Tebow, including those of the Vikings defensive front – making his duel with the front line of the Vikings defense the backup matchup to watch.

While Tebow was a first-round draft pick, the Broncos have no intention of throwing him to the wolves as a rookie – at least not until Denver is eliminated from postseason contention. Many believe, given the recent gutting of the franchise, that time will come sooner than later, but, barring injuries at the QB spot, Tebow will likely be seeing his last game action other than gadget-type Wildcat plays for at least the next couple of months.

Tebow has been praised for adjusting his throwing motion to adapt to the NFL game, but it is clear that he is still a raw pro prospect and has a lot of learning to do before he can be viewed as a viable NFL quarterback. As a result, he is likely to get an extensive look in tonight's game. He is looking to build on the foundation already in place. The Vikings defense, on the other hand, will be hoping to make him look overmatched and out of his league.

The players that will be expected to make Tebow's life miserable include defensive ends Brian Robison, Jayme Mitchell, Everson Griffen and Mike Montgomery, and tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans. It will be up to them to create an immediate pass rush because, while the Broncos have tried to change Tebow's mechanics, they haven't discovered the magic elixir to change the way his brain works. For four years in Florida, if Tebow was getting a pass rush, he simply tucked the ball down and took off running. Try that too often in the NFL and you're highlight video will be entitled "Blood on the Highway."

There has been little reason to believe that Tebow will be the savior of the Broncos franchise or an adequate replacement for former franchise QB Jay Cutler. However, he has the backing of the coaching staff, management and fans and will be given every opportunity to succeed. For Vikings not only looking to make the 53-man roster, but also trying to work their way into the line rotation during the regular season, the opportunity to deliver a big hit to the over-hyped Tebow would be a feather in their cap moving forward. Tebow is starting to feel the pressure of being the Golden Boy and wants to end the preseason on a positive note in a game where he is expected to see significant playing time. The Vikings want to plant the seeds of doubt in both Tebow and the Broncos organization, making this a meaningful matchup to watch in what is being billed as a meaningless game.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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