Tim Tebow made his return to the NFL on Sunday, playing in his first game since the 2013 preseason. With three exhibition games left on the schedule, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback may still have an uphill battle in his attempt to make a 53-man roster for the first time in three years.
On Sunday, Tebow played for about a quarter-and-a-half in Philadelphia’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. A 36-10 win for the Eagles gave them the largest margin of victory in Week 1 of the preseason. Both Tebow and Matt Barkley received significant playing time as they battle for the third-string role behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez.
Tebow completed six of 12 pass attempts for 69 yards. He ran the ball four times for 15 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown run. The former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback finished the day with a 67.7 passer rating.
Having not played against NFL competition in a few years, Tebow might have surpassed the expectations of some. He didn’t put up terrific numbers, but Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said he was happy with what he saw.
"I like how Timmy threw it,” Kelly said after the game. "That's the big concern with everybody coming in: 'Has he really changed?' And I think his sequencing is better. He got his feet underneath him. And when the guys ran the right routes and he had an opportunity to throw the football, I thought he threw the ball really well."
If the Eagles decide to carry three quarterbacks, Tebow’s athleticism and ability to be used in different packages, and possibly special teams, gives him a leg up on Barkley. But the former USC quarterback clearly outperformed Tebow on Sunday.
One of Barkley's passes was tipped and intercepted by the Colts, but he might have been Philadelphia’s biggest bright spot of the day. He completed 12 of his 20 pass attempts for 192 yards, moving the ball down the field with ease.
Barkley was barely used in 2014, throwing just one pass all season. As a rookie in 2013, Barkley found limited success in three games, throwing four interceptions and no touchdowns.
It’s been four years since Tebow has seen any significant time at quarterback, though he achieved some success in 2011. He won a playoff game with the Broncos, throwing 12 touchdown passes against six interceptions. Prior to Sunday’s game, BookerMaker Sportsbook, an online betting website, placed Tebow’s odds of making the Eagles 53-man roster at +170.
Sanchez figures to be Philadelphia’s primary backup quarterback, despite struggling Sunday. He completed just two of seven passes for 52 yards, but found rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor on a 34-yard touchdown strike.
Bradford is slotted to start for the Eagles in his first year with the team. He missed all of 2014 with a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, and he won’t make his Philadelphia debut until the Eagles’ Week 2 preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.