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 (4:04 PM)
What's really funny is I've been working on ESPN.com content all day today and I am amazed at how many storylines that are out there, even when most coaches and players are taking a well-deserved vacation. I think that says a lot about our sport, that there's so much to talk about even during the slowest time. I think with a lot of teams in mini camps over the weekend, we were really able to get a better handle on what schemes we will see this season.
How embarrassing is it for the league and the Saints that this saga continues to play out?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I think it's extremely embarrassing. I'm sure everybody would like to put it behind them. There is probably tremendous resentment on both sides. But in my opinion, it's not going to change. What has happened will stay in effect. I hope everybody is able to move on as quickly as possible. Even with all of the appeals and question marks, I don't think anything is going to change.
Ty (Miami) [via mobile]
Gary, even thouch coaches and etams are vacation, are they all really on vacation?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
No, they're actually on vacation. I think most head coaches realize that with this being a year round business, you've got to get away from it for 3-4 weeks. The playbook is already finished and there's not a lot to do until training camp. I think coaches realize they really need this time to spend with their families, because they're not going to see them much over the next several months. I can't name an NFL head coach that would allow his coaches to stay around during this time. Even the bosses get away.
Matt (South Jersey)
You are not the only one expecting big things out of Marcell Dareus....with his talent and the supporting cast of the Bills D-line, what do you see as his ceiling?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think he's going to be one of the most dominant DTs in the NFL. Remember, the guy next to him, Kyle Williams is also an excellent rusher. The fact that he will not be at NT in a 3-4 scheme and instead he'll lineup over the guard as a one-gap penetrator, and also the fact that they'll have two outstanding edge rushers in Williams and Anderson, means that he will get very few double teams. I don't know of many interior OL in this league that can block him one on one.
Is Josh Freeman's starting job in jeopardy if he has another disappointing season or will this year be a mulligan given the new coach?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think there is concern that he has to dramatically improve in his decision making and accuracy. But he also has a coaching staff now that really teaches well and I believe that they will work hard to correct his fundamental flaws. I expect a bounce back year. This organization is committed to him, whether they like it or not. If he has another bad year, that could be a huge set back. But I don't think that will happen. They'll have a better run game and a more consistent pass game, a lot off of playaction.
Matt Forte said he is prepared to sit out if necessary. But does anyone actually believe he will sit and make no money this season instead of taking at the very least the $7 million franchise tag?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
That's a hard question for me to answer, because I know Forte is a guy with a lot of principles. He really believes, along with most of the media and fans, that he is the in the right. To be honest, that may encourage him to actually stay with his convictions and sit out. It doesn't seem to make sense. I don't know if you do it or not, because it would seem, in today's NFL, running backs are not the premium position that they used to be. We have a lot of spread offenses that look for different skill sets. A lot of teams are hesitant to give huge money to guys for almost what they've done in the past. I personally think we're going to see less and less big RB deals when they hit the age of 30. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know.
Is Stafford a top 10 QB already.....and how long til Top 5 ???
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
I think he's in the top 10 and I think he's really headed for the top 5. The numbers he put up last year were amazing to me, considering the fact that he had one elite receiver in Calvin Johnson and a nice supporting cast with No. 2 and No. 3 WRs and a pass catching TE. But remember all of his production came without the benefit of a run game because of injuries. So, the passing game became their whole offense, even in run situations. That means the defenses were able to scheme easily with a lot of sub packages. If the run game comes back this year, I think he could post off the chart numbers.
Mike DeMascio (Mahopac, New York)
what is your take on the bounties?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
Every day you can take a different attitude on it. Some days, well everybody does it in a certain form and the Saints just carried away. But then on the other hand, you realize that this is a dangerous attitude, especialy what we're going through in the league with concussions. I think they want to nip this as quickly as they can. From the league standpoint, they are emphatic with the idea of the image of the league and playing cleanly. My biggest fear is that we might be heading toward an era of lawsuits, etc. by past players and that's why this is such a huge issue.
Who are your top 5 coaches on the hot seat this season?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
The names that come to mind: maybe Pat Shurmur in Cleveland, if improvement isn't shown; maybe Leslie Frazier in Minnesota, unless the owner realizes they're really in a rebuilding mode; Norv Turner in San Diego always seems to be on the hot seat. That seems to be it right now. Some people mention Lovie Smith in Chicago, but I don't think so.
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
We had so much turnover last year that we're probably in another 1-2 year cycle of not a lot of changes.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, speaking of contract concerns, do you feel things are under control with the Vikings and Percy Harvin?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I don't think it made a lot of sense to anybody in Minnesota. He is their best playmaker in terms of explosiveness. I think they'll try to get him the ball in as many ways as possible. It may be comments from a guy who is frustrated that he can't stay healthy and who realizes that he's on a team that's totally rebuilding and they may not be winning for a while. That's hard for a player to accept.
How big an impact will Robert Griffin have this season?
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
Oh, I think he can have a huge impact. I look for a bit of Cam Newton-type production. The great thing about RGIII is he can create plays because of his feet and speed. As a rookie, you're not always going to ask him to sit in the pocket and read the defense. In Mike Shanahan's team, we'll see a lot of bootlegs and rollouts. You only have to see half the field before tucking it in and running with it. That could lead to some success early. They've done a good job of getting some veteran pass catchers around him to at least give him a chance. It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't have better early production than Andrew Luck. Though both are headed for great careers.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will Denarius Moore be the Raiders top wide receiver in 2012? Is this a make or break year for DHB and Louis Murphy?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I'm unlike a lot of people that criticize their WR and their consistency. It seems like for years we've seen athletes with speed who just didn't produce. But I've watched some film the last several weeks and I like this group more than I thought I would. They're showing more consistency. Carson Palmer now has a whole offseason under his belt. They've also gotten back a running game that was inconsistent last year due to injury. So I've changed my feelings about this group, especially Heyward-Bay. I think he and Moore will be the center of this passing game.
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
For me, it may sound crazy, but I like this time of year, because I can watch a lot of film. I can really study what I think are trends and philosophies going into the season. You don't have to spend all of your time just trying to keep up with the face of the NFL. It's a month when you can really dive in and do projects.