View Photo Gallery: Most days, Tim Tebow could pass as a running back. Just look at that ball security.

The instant the New York Jets traded for popular-yet-polarizing quarterback Tim Tebow, they opened the floodgates for even more scrutiny than the local press already provides.

Now, after three preseason games without a touchdown, the groans about the team’s putrid quarterback play with incumbent Mark Sanchez and Tebow under center are growing louder.

As he did at times during his memorable run last season in Denver, Tebow has looked better carrying the ball than throwing it this preseason. He has rushed for 84 yards on just 11 carries while completing only 13 of 36 passes (36 percent) for a meager 151 yards and a pair of interceptions. His passer rating is a 26.5.

But while the Jets could certainly use his ball-carrying ability to help a rushing attack that finished 22nd in the league last year, Tebow was quick to remind reporters what position he intends to play.

“I’m a quarterback, first and foremost,” Tebow said when asked to respond to ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge’s assertion that he could play running back for the Jets . “However else I can help the team, I will help the team. I think some things are just playing football and I think some things are position-specific.”

Tebow has struggled and Sanchez hasn’t been much better. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)

“I think Tebow would expand his role,” Ryan told the New York Daily News. “We feel good about what Tim can do.”

And while Tebow has struggled in his limited action for New York, first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has seen growth.

“When I watch the film, I see something a little different than I think most people [who] watch it see,” Sparano said. “That’s progress to me.”

The Jets and their fans would certainly like to see some progress when they close out the preseason Thursday at Philadelphia. The team has scored all of 21 points — on seven field goals — through three games.

Sanchez remained upbeat after he completed 11 of 18 passes for 123 yards and an interception in Sunday’s loss to Carolina.

“Well, I’ve said it before,” he said. “We’re saving our good stuff for the regular season.”

That will likely include a wildcat package featuring Tebow. But just how “good” that formation is depends on whether Sanchez and the conventional offense can get things going.

Meantime, Tebow’s pop culture reach continues to extend well south of the New York border. (Yes, this is utterly ridiculous.)

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