Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton stops in to talk about the NFL season and other news from around the league.
Horton spent 10 years in the NFL as a scout and another 10 years at the college level as an assistant coach and recruiter. He is the founder and most seasoned member of the Scouts Inc. staff, and his extensive experience at all levels of football make him an excellent talent evaluator.
Send your questions now and join Horton Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Gary Horton (4:02 PM)
I'm really surprised at how many of these games this season are really close. It was especially fun to watch how many of the late games came down to the wire. There were some great finishes yesterday.
I know their schedule is still daunting, but did the Giants punch their playoff ticket yesterday?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think they showed that when Eli Manning plays as good as he's playing right now, they are a pretty solid football team. They didn't have their "A" run game yesterday, but he made plays when he needed to. They have an excellent pass rush that covers up some defensive problems. I just don't know if he can play perfect football every week. That NFC East division looks like it's up for grabs.
It's obvious Aaron Rodgers is playing a game most of us will never see again, but who do you think is the second best QB in the league right now?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I totally agree with you. It's probably Drew Brees or Tom Brady. Although both of them have looked more uncomfortable at times than we are used to seeing. The more I think about it, it might be Big Ben in Pittsburgh....but he lost last night. I don't think anybody is even close to Rodgers right now.
Bears O-Line vs Eagles D-Line, what can we expect tonight?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
Philadelphia is not running their Wide 9 defense nearly as much as they have in the past. They will bring their defensive ends down more, which should help against the run. Though they will go with the Wide 9 on third down. I like how this Chicago offense is getting the ball out quicker with a lot of quick drops. They're using some max protection schemes to cover up for OL deficiencies. But on top of that, the defensive front four for Philadelphia is pretty strong and pretty deep. It will take a quick Chicago passing game to neutralize their rush.
Rich (New Jersey)
The Giants battled the Patriots to 0-0 half time and won 24-20 with than a minute on the clock. Who was the stand out of this game, Eli Manning & the offense or the Giants defense?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I would say it's probably more Eli. Though I thought both coaching staffs did a nice job of making halftime adjustments. Both offenses we saw in the second half were dramatically better than in the first half. I didn't think either offense looked particularly sharp. I don't think either defense was that great as much as it was both QBs finally getting into a groove.
CJ (San Diego)
Philip Rivers and the Chargers swear, Rivers is not injured, do you see a change in Rivers' mechanics, follow-through, etc?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I don't see anything that would tell me about an injury. But I think he is forcing the ball at times. He is making bad decisions that we haven't seen in the past. But I also see a lot of his receivers struggling to get separation, which has never been a big problem. It seems like defenses are taking away the seam route from the Chargers, which has been a bread and butter pass. Also, this run game has not clicked on all cylinders every week. It just doesn't look like the passing game is in sync.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, with the way the Vikings seem to be responding now that Christian Ponder is playing, could you see them winning four of their final eight games in the rest of the 2011 season?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
No, I don't. I think they have other issues. I think Ponder is a guy they can really build around for their future. I know that Adrian Peterson is going to give them a great effort week in and week out. But they don't have enough explosive offensive weapons that we're used to seeing. I don't like the production of their offensive line. Their LBs are not great in coverage and I think their secondary is a mess. This is an aging roster that I think they thought they could contend for the Super Bowl for a couple more years and I think they misjudged their talent. Now there are a lot of things to fix.
who has improved more from 2010 to 2011? Bengals or 49ers.
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
Oh, I think it's the 49ers without question. The Bengals have had a pretty good defense for the last couple of seasons and they have been up and down on offense. But San Francisco has been a bad football team with Frank Gore and little else. Jim Harbaugh has turned this into a smart, workmanlike team. They are very well coached in all areas. They don't beat themselves. They have somehow turned Alex Smith into a dependable QB. They are not always exciting or explosive, but they are sound and that can win for you in Januaray.
If Tim Tebow continues to play this way, (below average passing, excellent running, winning games), do the Denver Broncos draft a QB or go a different way?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
I don't think they can depend on him yet. He obviously looked good yesterday, with his feet. He also made a few more nice passes than we've seen in the past. But this offense looked to me like a college scheme and it won't take smart NFL defenses very long to figure it out and make adjustments.
How do you think the Lions will fare when they play the Packers in a few weeks? I think that they actually match up fairly well against the Pack, they can generate a rush without blitzing, they have an explosive passing attack....do you agree?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
Well, right now, when I watch the Packers, unless Aaron Rodgers has an off day, and keep in mind how good he is on astroturf and inside in perfect conditions, I just don't know of any team in this league that can beat them. I have felt for weeks that the only way the Packers will lose is if Rodgers has an off day and it exposes that bad defense. That could come in January in adverse weather conditions.
Does an Eagles loss tonight take them out of the division if not playoff race for good?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I don't think so, though it would be a blow. I think this NFC East race is going to wind up being very balanced and they're probably going to beat each other up and no one will run away with it. However, this is the type of game they have to win and they can no lose at home. I happen to think right now that they're the second best team in the NFC behind Green Bay. But I think the way they play tonight will go a long way on telling us if they have fixed all of their problems.
Is Arizona regretting getting Kevin Kolb?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I think there are probably some real questions right now. I have been told from good sources that Kolb has never looked good since he's been in Arizona and maybe we just overrated him when he was in Philadelphia. I know he doesn't have a lot of weapons, but I think there is some legit concern that this isn't just a slump, that he might not be the guy to lead this offense.
The bucs are 4-4 and have an up and down schedule to finish the season. What do you think their record is come January? I'm thinking 9-7 but could easily see 7-9
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
Well, it took me a long time to try and get a handle on them. The team that I think I see now is young and inconsistent with a QB that tries to do too much and that leads to some bad decisions and interceptions. I thought this defense, especially the front four was going to be much better than they are. If the Bucs don't have a dependable run game and they have to rely on Freeman too much, I think they are in trouble. This is a very good NFC South, maybe better than we thought at the beginning of the season, because even though their record doesn't indicate it, I think Carolina is an improving team and we know that New Orleans and Atlanta are solid. Yes, I agree with you that they'll probably be a .500 team the rest of the way.
Kevin (Portland, OR)
How about that Texans defense? #1 in YPG and #3 in PPG allowed, and held last 3 opponents under 200 yds of total offense. Can they keep it up?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
Well, yes I think they can. They're very sound. The biggest shock for me is the improvement in the secondary from a year ago, which was awful. But this is not a typical 3-4 defense, where the DL plays two-gap technique and they read and react. They are a penetrating one-gap group up front. That can really create pressure on opposing QBs and it disrupts blocking schemes, because they are always in an attack mode. I think the players really believe in it. They are a fairly young group and they have guys we have never heard of really starting to produce, even with their best player Mario Williams out for the year.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I think as we are about at the midpoint in the season, the biggest thing that surprises me is how much production we're getting out of rookie players, especially QBs. With the lockout and no training camp, I would have thought that the contributions from this rookie class would have been almost non-existent, but that's not the case. A lot of scouts have told me they think it's a product of coaches simplifying their schemes so their rookies could play and contribute quicker. Maybe that's a framework for the future.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
But, whatever the reason, it's nice to see these young guys having some success. It's good for the game.
Buzzmaster (4:30 PM)