By:PAT GRAHAM,AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Ndamukong Suh has cultivated a reputation for intimidating quarterbacks.
So much so that Tim Tebow will be constantly glancing to his right Sunday, just to see exactly where the big, burly Detroit Lions defensive lineman might be. The Broncos quarterback doesn’t plan on losing sight of Suh for a second.
Forgive Tebow if he’s a little paranoid, forgive any QB for that matter — Suh has simply become that threatening.
He anchors a Lions line that has produced 17 sacks this season and allowed three rushing TDs.
In his second season, Suh has developed the persona of a bruiser, not to mention a little bit of a bully. Last weekend, he and fellow defensive lineman Cliff Avril reportedly razzed Matt Ryan while the Atlanta quarterback was down on the field with an injury.
Earlier this week, Suh shot back, hinting the Falcons were guilty of dirty play.
Now, the Denver Broncos (2-4) will be facing a seething Suh and the disgruntled Detroit Lions (5-2), who have dropped two straight after a sizzling start.
A fired-up Suh? That’s the last thing Tebow really wants to see charging after him.
“He’s obviously a big boy, strong, very explosive. He does a lot of great things,” Tebow said. “He’s very impressive physically, and on tape as well.”
Tebow has actually gotten to know Suh. When both were in college, they made the rounds to the same award ceremonies and functions, striking up friendly conversations. Later on, they met up at different sponsorship events.
So, any chance Suh might take it easy on him?
“Oh yeah,” Tebow said with a smile.
Come Sunday, it could be more like, “Oh, no.”
Already known for having happy feet in the pocket, Tebow may be even quicker to tuck the ball and take off this weekend.
And that very well could also be by design.
The Broncos will likely be without leading tailback Willis McGahee after he missed practice this week following surgery to fix a broken finger on his right hand. They’re down to two healthy backs in Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball, leaving Tebow as one of their top rushing threats.
The Lions are quite aware of that.
“Everybody knows Tim Tebow,” Suh said.
With his size and strength, Tebow is unlike any quarterback Detroit has faced.
“(It) presents a lot of challenges for a defense, because of his mobility and also, it’s not just mobility, his ability to be used as a running back,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “Pass-rush wise, we’ve seen some mobile quarterbacks, but not left-handed mobile quarterbacks, so it changes things a little bit. We’re going to have to work real hard at containing him.”
Part of the problem for a defense is that Tebow hardly does anything by the book. He’s not the most polished passer or the best surveyor of a defense.
But he brings other intangibles to the field.
Chief among them, moxie.
Tebow played horribly for 55 minutes in Miami last weekend before he brought the Broncos back from a 15-0 deficit in the final minutes to force overtime, where the team pulled out an improbable 18-15 win. It’s the largest deficit overcome in a victory with less than 3 minutes since the 1970 NFL merger.
That only adds to the legend of Tebow.
The Heisman Trophy winner out of Florida is a popular and polarizing figure around the country. But not in the locker room. There, he insists, he’s just a regular guy. No one asks him to keep his religion or his beliefs to himself.
“I think my relationship with guys on the team is deeper than just, you know, moments like that or comments like that,” Tebow said. “I feel like when you get to know people and you care about people it’s more than just, you know, comments like that.”
Tebow remains a work in progress. He’s built like a tight end, delivers hits like a linebacker but wants to develop into an elite quarterback. He’s constantly working on his pocket presence, not taking off at the first sign of trouble.
His patience could be put to the test by Suh, who has three sacks this season along with riling up countless offensive linemen.
Most of the time, the Broncos expect Suh to line up on the side of right guard Chris Kuper. Even knowing where he is doesn’t make it any easier to defend him.
Not with Detroit’s talented front line. The Lions also feature Avril, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch, along with rookie Nick Fairley.
“They have a lot of guys who can move around,” said left tackle Ryan Clady, whose team allowed a season-high six sacks against the Dolphins last week. “They don’t blitz much because their front four can get pressure without blitzing. That gives them an advantage against a lot of teams.”
The other intriguing matchup in this contest will be out wide when perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey tries to shut down Calvin Johnson, who has emerged as one of the top receivers in the game.
“He’s special,” Bailey said. “You’ve got to get lucky sometimes too because he is going to make some plays.”
Johnson has a league-leading 10 TD catches, but this could be problematic: Quarterback Matthew Stafford is dinged up. Stafford was able to practice this week on his injured right ankle, but backup Shaun Hill is taking snaps, too.
“We’ll get the job done,” Johnson said. “We’re comfortable with Shaun.”
As for Bailey shadowing him around the field, Johnson said he’s looking forward to the showdown.
“Definitely going to be a challenge,” he said. “That’s the thing in this league: You’re going against the best every week and he’s definitely one of the best.”
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)