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Palladino: Jets Must Take 'Special' Care Of Tim Tebow

'From the Pressbox'
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

For all those naysayers on the Tim Tebow trade, here's something to think about.

It appears Tebow will have more value to the Jets than simply as a Wildcat quarterback and backup arm -- albeit an erratic one -- in case somebody lowers a considerable boom on Mark Sanchez.

If the coaching staff uses its collective head, that is.

With special teams coach Mike Westhoff calling him a "more potent Brad Smith" in a Daily News report, it's obvious the special teams coach has plans for him on his unit. Smith, you may remember, was quite a good kickoff returner in 2009 and 2010, his last two years with the Jets, as well as a Wildcat force. But despite his background as a quarterback at Missouri, Smith was mostly regarded as a wide receiver.

Tebow, more than 20 pounds heavier than the shifty Smith, is more running back than quarterback, even though he remains Sanchez' primary backup. So using him on special teams makes him even more valuable, especially considering his accuracy in the short-to-medium passing game leaves much to be desired.

But here is where the Jets' coaching staff and this typist differ as far as using Tebow on specials. Assuming the Jets will keep him as the first backup, it would probably be unwise for Westhoff to use him as a returner, given the possibility of injury. With Smith, they risked losing a receiver, as they did for three games in the first of two straight championship game runs in 2009.

Lose Tebow to a well-placed hit or an unfortunate twist of the knee while cutting on a kickoff return, and the Jets lose the starting experience behind Sanchez they just paid for with this year's fourth and sixth-round draft picks.

Westhoff, like new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano before him, refused to divulge his exact plans for Tebow. So it's not known whether he has him in mind for the primary kickoff return spot currently occupied by Joe McKnight.

But here's a suggestion. Leave McKnight where he is. Since Westhoff would probably be crazy to use the bulky Tebow in a wedge-buster spot, the only other possible spot would come as the upback on kickoffs. Put him there, where he can throw a fairly safe one-on-one block. To place him anywhere else on the kickoff return team would be risking a lot, and showing an inordinate amount of faith in projected third-stringer Greg McElroy.

McElroy's major contribution so far has been to throw light on the team's locker room unrest last season, as viewed from his spot on the injured reserve list. Not a lot there on which to rest a potential starting role should Sanchez falter or get hurt.

Westhoff could also use him on the punt coverage team as T.J.Conley's protector. Set him up in the backfield to present the run/pass threat off a fake punt.

Tebow will welcome any opportunity to get on the field for the good of the team, and is said to be amenable to Westhoff's intentions. That's Tebow. That's his nature. He's a team-first, God-fearing guy. And that's fine. Great, even.

But it's up to Westhoff to use him appropriately. If the vaunted special teams coach looks at Tebow and sees a battering ram, he'll be asking for trouble. But if the old coach uses him judiciously, it might just work out.

And if that's the case, Tebow could turn into an invaluable addition.

How exactly should the Jets use Tebow on special teams? Make your case in the comments below...

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