When a pair of former AFC West rivals get together tonight in Denver for their third preseason game, the most important position in the game becomes even more important.
For the Seahawks, Tarvaris Jackson continues to hold that which was handed to him promptly after he signed with the team last month. He’s the starter. Charlie Whitehurst is the backup.
But Charlie Whitehurt has outplayed Jackson, prompting speculation that Jackson will get some of the same treatment in Seattle that Seahawks officials claim he received in Minnesota. If Tarvaris sputters tonight and Whitehurst shines, things could get interesting between now and September 11, when the Seahawks commence the defense of their NFC West crown, against the 49ers.
For the Broncos, the quarterback position has been the focal point of media discussion for a month, and for good reason. As we understand it, Kyle Orton was so close to being traded to the Dolphins that travel arrangements to Miami had been made. But the Dolphins got cold feet, due in part to Orton’s demands for a long-term deal.
And so when Orton and Tebow made it to practice for the first time together this year, Orton had a great day, Tebow had a horrible day, and it all went downhill (for Tebow) from there.
Though Tebow widely is regarded as a guy who struggles in practice and gets it together on game day (it’s a reputation he had during his time at Florida), the recent experiences of new Broncos coach John Fox are believed to have helped Orton’s cause. Fox, who was 2-14 last year in Carolina with rookie Jimmy Clausen taking plenty of lumps (and losing plenty of games), surely has no desire to go 2-14 again with a work-in-progress quarterback.
Of course, this hardly means that Orton will lead the team to a record of 14-2. Concerns remain regarding his in-game abilities during the fourth quarter and in the red zone, which possibly explains Fox’s decision to give some red-zone reps with the first team to Brady Quinn.
Regardless of what the Broncos do in 2011 — and regardless of what some in the media think of Tebow — the team seems to remain committed to their young quarterback’s long-term development, even if the team hasn’t done more over the past several weeks to throw water on the parade of Tebow critics. That’s why folks like Woody Paige of the Denver Post have opted not to give up on Tebow, and it’s why we won’t, either. Unless the rest of the team plays a lot better than it did in 2010, the Broncos eventually will slide out of contention in the AFC West, and the time will come for Tebow to show what he can do. What he does with that opportunity in 2011 will go a long way toward determined whether he’s the guy who’ll get the job in 2012.
Right now, it’s way too early to say he will. But it’s also way too early to say he won’t.