Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" himself, Gary Horton, stops in to talk some football and other news from around the league.
Horton, from Scouts Inc., works year-round on ESPN's NFL-related shows, including NFL32, where he breaks down film, earning him his Caveman nickname.
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)
All 32 teams have been through their rookie mini camps, so the coaches have finally had a chance to get a better feel for what they have with this class. Now we enter a real teaching stage with OTAs and a lot of classroom work for the next month before everyone takes a vacation. There is a lot of work to be done for coaches and players at this time.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, assuming the Vikings offensive line will be (from left to right) Kalil, Johnson, Sullivan, Schwartz, and Loadholt, do you think that line will be much better than it was last year (for Ponder's and Peterson's sake)?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
Well, Kalil should be a cornerstone for years to come. I am still shocked that this line went down hill so fast. It seemed like it wasn't that long ago that we were looking at the Vikings having an elite front and now they're terrible. But this is a step in the right direction. But they still have a lot of work to do with the guys up front. As you mentioned, both for Ponder and AP.
Gary, how do you think the Bears will do this year? They added 2 big WR's, they get back Carimi at RT, added Bush and Campbell for depth and get rid of an offensive scheme that regularly allowed hard hits on Cutler. I feel this can be a huge season for them and at least 10-11 wins.
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
I like what you said, your last comment, about changing schemes. Mike Tice is going to bring back a run first mentality. He will bring the TE back into the offense, which was nonexistent under Mike Martz. That should set up playaction for Jay Cutler and also allow for safer passes. I really like the size that they have at WR now. That translates to better success on third down and in the red zone on those jump balls. That's a pass Cutler throws well. You're right on Carimi, but they're still a work in progress on the OL. My fear is that they might be starting to fade on defense. I think age is a factor and I don't know how long this current group of veterans can hold on and play at a high level. That may be a key to their overall success, even though the offense has improved.
What coach is starting the 2012 season with the "hottest seat"?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think Norv Turner's seat might be the hottest in San Diego with expectations always high and they've underachieved the last couple of years in many people's minds. And with a lot of coaching changes the last couple of years, some guys have some time. An interesting one to watch is Rex Ryan and the Jets. I don't think it's hot now, but if this team falls apart and the lockerroom splinters, it could get interesting. I don't think it will happen, but we should watch.
Rich (New Jersey)
Now that the Vikings have a new home, there seems to be a problem about stadium location or possible use of Dodger Stadium. LA seems to become a college town & gets best possible NFL games on TV, do you think LA will get an existing team?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I think there is still a strong desire to put a team in LA on a lot of different fronts. Any team that continues to struggle in their own market is always a candidate to move. The first places you look are Jacksonville and San Diego. The problem in LA is the people in that city want reassurances that a team will come before they build a stadium, rather than build a stadium and try to draw a team. That might make it tougher to commit to a place that hasn't built a stadium yet.
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
You might also throw the Raiders into the mix. It seems to me, and I'm not an expert in this area, that LA wants that assurance before they commit to a stadium. That's a tough thing to ask a team.
Do you think Tannehill should start week 1 for the Phins if he out plays his counter parts this preseason?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
Well, all along through the draft, I was convinced he was the perfect QB to sit and learn and get a feel for this offense, which is a pretty smart and sophisticated offense. However, in the recent weeks, I talked to some guys I really trust and they think Miami is going to use an uptempo scheme with some movement by the QB with some bootlegs, roll outs, maybe some no-huddle, maybe some shotgun and run as many plays as they can during a game. If that is the case, it may fit Tannehill much better than I thought. I could see him in that scenario being a guy that jumps into the mix early. If this looks like the offense that he ran in college then there isn't a lot of reason in waiting, because he probably knows the offense better than a lot of the guys there.
who came out best this offseason?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
Well, I really like what the Bucs did. I thought they hit a home run in free agency and then they came back and did a good job in the draft and really filled their needs. Buffalo did a great job in free agency. I thought more than any other year than I can remember, teams did a great job of filling needs rather than just taking the best athlete available. Washington is the best example. They knew they were going to draft RGIII so they went and got their offensive weapons in free agency. San Francisco added speed and big play capability in the draft to counter their fast defense. You can go down the list. For the first time in years, we didn't have a lot of picks where we shook our heads and we couldn't understand them. Almost every pick we saw made a certain amount of sense.
Gary, how much of a difference will the Cowboys revamped secondary make? Will it provide the extra second for the pass rush to get home?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
I think the drafting of Morris Claiborne was a huge addition for Dalas, because they have wanted for years to be able to play man to man schemes with their corners and turn and run situations on the outside and they couldn't. Now Claiborne, along with free agent Brandon Carr fill those roles perfectly and that allows Rob Ryan the freedom to put in every blitz he has and not be as concerned about protecting the back end of this defense. That is going to be a major change for the Cowboys in 2012 as they will be creating a lot more big plays on defense.
have the patriots done enough to fill their holes?
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
I thought they were absolutely on target on how they approached this offseason. If you look at it, they shocked us in free agency, because all of they did was attack the offense, by adding WRs, etc. to bolster an already strong passing game. But when you then move to the draft and see their first six picks were defensive players, this looks like the perfect blend of filling all of their needs in both ways you can acquire personnel. The other thing I love about their draft, every time they took one of these guys and I analyzed the pick, I was writing "he can play inside or outside" and "he can play up or down." That allows Bill Belichick to play whatever scheme he wants because he has versatile guys who can play multiple roles.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the Best NFL Team in 2012?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I don't see how you can discount the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots because even though the Giants were terrific in the playoffs, I happen to think the Packers and Patriots are a little more talented, despite defensive weaknesses a year ago in the playoffs. Now it looks like they have tried to fix those weaknesses. I am not discounting the job that the Giants do, because they play above their talent level. But the Pats and the Packers have so much talent. If they play up to their potential, they're going to be elite teams.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
Is Denver a serious contender in the AFC or closer to a team that can win it's division but isn't a championship level squad?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I probably see them as the latter, even though with Peyton Manning, you always have a chance. Their defense is building, but not elite. I think Manning will make the passing game better than the personnel he has on hand, which isn't bad. It would not surprise me for them to win the division, but I just don't see them as an elite team just yet. They may become that before Peyton is finished. You can never discount his ability to raise the level of play of everybody around him.
What are you thoughts on the Phins new Head Coach?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think he's an NFL veteran that certainly deserves a chance to be a head coach. The system that he was in in Green Bay was absolutely terrific and it translates to success in the NFL. Miami and their fanbase needs an exciting offense and I believe he will give it to them. But it's a new staff and it remains to be seen how it all comes together.
Caveman, what have you been working on in the cave for this week?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
Well, actually, we're looking at some of all of the offseason coaching changes. How they changed the offensive and defensive philosophies of their new teams. Are they going to be a 3-4 or 4-3 defense? Man or zone? I think it's really fun to delve into the X's and O's. We're also doing a big project for ESPN.com where we're evaluating a team from top to bottom from front office to coaching, etc. It's really fun. I love May and June because these are two months where you have time to watch film and you can answer questions about things you might see or find trends when you might not have the time during the year. If you have anything you want to know, let me know and I'll watch the film.
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
As we said at the beginning of the chat, do not underestimate the importance of the next 3-4 weeks. It's a chance for the coaches to really do some teaching, for the young players to get acclimated, for the veterans to get back into the swing of things. It may sound corny, but it's a good chemistry building time for an organization in a relaxed environment. See you next Monday!