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!
Who's the AFC West frontrunner in your eyes?
Gary Horton (4:03 PM)
I still think it's San Diego, with Denver a close second. I know the Chargers' window of opportunity seems to be slipping away, but I still think they have enough weapons on both sides of the ball to compete. Even though I think Denver will be much better than they were a year ago, I just don't know that Peyton can carry them on his back to the playoffs. I don't think this division overall is real strong heading into this season.
Is Dallas on track to be a superbowl contender this year?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
Yes I do, but they're also playing in a very tough NFC East, where these teams may beat each other up. I think they'll be much better on defense than a year ago and they still have quality playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. But they just have to stay healthy and play with consistency. But I think the NFC Super Bowl team has a good chance of coming out of the East.
how important was it for the Bears to reach a three-year deal with Forte today before the deadline?
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
Oh I think it was very very important, because not only is Forte a really good all around runner, but this is also an offense that wants to have a physical ball control run game and now they have a great 1-2 punch with Forte and Bush. I also think it sends a huge message to the lockerroom that we will take care of our own. Forte is an absolute leader on this team, so it's important for him to be happy.
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
However, on a philosophical note, I think we are seeing a trend now that organizations don't want to give running backs that have been in the league for a few years longterm contracts. The RB position, in my opinion, is almost by committee these days for a lot of teams. While we may think it's important to reward backs for what they've done, the front office is thinking about what they'll do in the future, that's what makes it so sensitive.
Thanks for taking my question Gary. Do you think New England would give Welker a 3 year contract if he was to lower his price quite a bit or are they just not interested in keeping him beyond this year ? I think making a player , play with no security is bad HOWEVER I think all these players ask for way too much money and just screw themselves by not being more flexible.
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I think when we talk about Welker, it may be similar to what we just talked about with Matt Forte. Welker has several years in the league. He's not a big guy. He's taken a lot of hits and he also plays out of the slot, and is amazingly productive, but the organization might value size and speed on the outside even more. The Patriots have always been a team that seems to know when a players' skills are on the decline. They're not afraid to make tough business decisions. In my thinking, they probably think that Welker does not have 3 or 4 good years left, so they may feel good about one year at a time. It's easy for us as fans to think about what their production is in the past and right now, and reward them accordingly. But I understand the organization looking forward and not getting locked up too long.
Would you pay the big bucks to a running back knowing that they are "used up" so easily in the NFL?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I think we're in such an era of pass heavy offenses that there is a feeling that you could get the running game covered by 2-3 guys at a lot less money. I think it's a very tough decision for an owner. I think it's easy to give a running back one big contract after his rookie one expires, but I get very nervous at 28-29 of giving a guy a long term deal. If I were an owner, it would depend on what kind of offense we ran and how important the running game was. There are an awful lot of teams that don't have great run games and two of them played in the Super Bowl last year.
Jake (San Jose, CA)
What do expect out of Aldon Smith this year? More of the same or a little bit of a sophomore slump?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I've watched quite a bit of film on the 49ers in the last couple of weeks and I think they're the best defense in the NFL and they will only get better. How do you find a better ILB duo than they have. The biggest thing for me is how physical their secondary is. This defense plays with a swagger and a confidence that leads to a lot of big plays. I think they will dominate for years to come, because they are a pretty young group.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, given the $100 million contract that Drew Brees signed for the Saints, can you imagine what Aaron Rodgers' next contract could be worth???
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
Oh I don't think there's any question New Orleans needed to do this for Brees on a lot of fronts. I think all of the other veteran QBs are happy this deal got done. It sets them up. Unlike the RB position, QBs will continue to get paid and, obviously they have a lot longer shelf life than other positions. I'm just really surprised this didn't get done earlier in New Orleans. It at least gives them some semblance of stability with everything that's gone on.
Gary, what are your thoughts on the Browns' selection of Josh Gordon in the 2nd round of the supplemental draft and how good of an NFL WR do you expect him to be?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
Teams look strong at the supplemental draft because it comes at a time when they know exactly what their needs are. In the Browns case, they have a huge need at WR and this is a guy that they projected to be a really high draft choice had he stayed in school for his senior year. Obviously, at this time of year every organization has time to watch film and study a guy and I think they felt very good about giving up that second round choice.
Scott (Northglenn, CO)
What do you expect from the Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker combo in Denver? Does Peyton make them stars, or will they be something less than that?
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
I think they have a chance to be close to an elite receiving corps. Peyton demands improvements with his receivers and he's obviously willing to put in the work to make him better. Both of these young guys appear to have character and desire. So I think they'll take to his teaching well. They'll put in the time necessary and this will be a really good passing game. These two young guys may be better than what Peyton had at Indianapolis.
Is this the year that Matt Ryan and the Falcons finally win a playoff game?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I think like every year Atlanta will be in the middle of things. But they're also in a competitive division. But he has a passing game now with quality targets and big play capabilities. He also has a run game that he can count on. I think the offense will do their part. I think Ryan's getting better. I love the way he runs the no-huddle offense. I think it's going to come down to if the defense can match the offense's production. New Orleans may dip a little bit, but I also think Carolina will be better. Those are four tough teams in that division.
Scooter, minny [via mobile]
What team or teams will be in L.A. in a few years now that the vikings will be staying in minnesota?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think the San Diego Chargers are the most likely team to relocate. I just don't see a new stadium deal in the near future. But it always seems to me that it's sort of a cat and mouse game when you talk about L.A. A team doesn't want to commit to go there unless there is a new stadium. And it seems to me that the city doesn't want to build a stadium until a team commits to come there. So, I don't know what the answer is. Having grown up in L.A., I continue to be baffled by the fact that there is no NFL team in that city
Over or under 6000 passing yds for Matt Stafford this year?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I think that offense will continue to be terrific, because he has a great group of pass catching weapons, led by Calvin Johnson. However, in my opinion, this may be a better passing game in 2012 but with less production by Stafford because I think they will have a running game this year that they didn't have a year ago because of injuries. That balance could give them more big plays in the passing game, but yet having to be so pass happy. Remember in 2011, their run game almost had to consist of short passes to their TE Pettigrew, because both of their backs were hurt. I think they'd like to avoid that this year. This is going to be a great offense, but I think balance is really desired.