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 (4:01 PM)
Gary Horton (4:02 PM)
It's great to have Week 1 of the preseason in the books. In the next two weeks, we'll get a better feel for the starters and prime time players as their play time increases. But I was really impressed with these young QBs in Week 1. I think it is a tribute to how well they have been coached on the college level to be able to fit into the NFL game so quickly. I'm ready for your questions!
Rich (New Jersey)
With all the off-season problems the Saints went through, they look like they're ready for the regular season. Any impressions from their first two pre-season games?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think they will be just fine. I don't know that they will be as dominant as a year ago. We think of Brees as another coach on the field, but I do think they will miss Payton's playcalling and leadership. This division is also better than last year. I think they are a 11 or 12 win team. The offense should put up big numbers. Their defense can be middle of the road and they will be just fine.
anthony los angeles [via mobile]
Do you see the colts winning 9 games +his season.
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
It's only Week 1 of the preseason, but I certainly thought Luck looked like he belongs in this league. He will be REALLY good. But I have watched a lot of film on them and there has been too much chance in personnel to be overly optimistic. They are changing players and strategies on both sides of the ball. I'd be surprised if they win more than 4-5 games. But I do think they have a plan that the players believe in. Can also ask after Week 1 ... are the Rams that bad?
I wrote earlier about why QB get credit for only throwing a 3 yard pass but when the WR or RB catches the ball for the 3 yards why do the QB get credit for a 63 yard pass if he did not throw the ball for 63 yards? So my question is if the NFL had it like that, which they should then QB dont really do anything at all, because the RB and WR are doing all the work and the QB gets the credit. QB throws for 410 yards but how many yards did he realy throw for. I just dont understand why they do it like that.
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
It's a fair question. When I saw the replay, it looks like a much bigger play on paper. It was a nice call, a short middle screen, but it didn't take a lot of skill to make that pass. But I did like his other throws even better. He just played with overall nice composure. You bring up a good question about how the stats are compiled, but that is not changing anytime soon. QBs with short passing games do probably get more credit than they deserve but it won't change.
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I was actually impressed with Donald Brown on the play we are talking about. He showed great speed and explosiveness. They need someone like that to emerge in this offense.
Any thoughts on the Pack adding Cedric Benson? Good or Bad add?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I know they have had a lot of injuries in training camp. I think there are a lot of people surprised that he wasn't signed earlier. He has some solid football left in his body. The Packers need a guy who can grind it out. Benson has always liked volume carries. Their running game doesn't have to be great, it just has to be good enough to force defenses to play semi-honest and not always be in subpackages.
What do you think will be the toughest division in Football this year?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I would have to say the NFC East. I think Washington will be better than a year ago and I think the other three teams are absolutely close to being elite. I also like the AFC North with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincy getting better and Cleveland pulling up the rear. Ironically, I see a lot of divisions with 3 competitive teams with 1 that doesn't seem to have a chance. I don't know what that means, but it is interesting.
Being a Browns fan, I was excited to get the chance to see Weeden start and what the Browns could accomplish once the regular season starts. However, I have noticed a lot negative comments directed at him and I dont understand why. Those two turnovers where not his fault in my opinion, as one was stripped from Greg Little hands and the other was due to a missed black from the O-Line. Anyways, do you believe that Weeden will improve from his first Preseason performance and show us what he really is made of? And do you expect Cleveland to fix there problems on stopping the run, which I believe is there biggest weakness at the moment.
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
I don't think there is any doubt he will improve. It will happen each week. He is a smart guy who will adapt. Remember, he doesn't have a dominating run game with Richardson's injury. I am curious though why they already named him the starter this early. Why not let he and McCoy have a little bit of a battle, even if the coaches have already probably made their decision. Just not sure what purpose the early announcement served.
The national media has been pretty hard on the Steelers Oline performance in the first preseason game. Does it worry you at all?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
No, because you have some young guys in there and they have been making changes. When you have two rookies getting ready to start, there is a learning curve. But I felt after the Draft, and I still feel, that one of the biggest upgraded units in the NFL this season will be the Pittsburgh OL. But it is a slower unit to develop than a lot of other positions.
Wally (Saratoga, NY)
Am i dreaming thinking there is still a chance for Mr Ireland et al to make a big splash and acquire Mike Wallace..? Would turn this whole off season around...
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
I don't think there is any chance that Wallace will not be playing for the Steelers in 2012. They have been very firm in saying they will match any offer. It will eventually get done and I believe not only would it hurt their football team, but it would be damaging to the lockerroom if they let him leave.
Mark (San Fransico)
Has there been any news or any word on the old ref's coming back to the NFL? At the moment the new ones are doing a horrible job from what I seen and I hope things can get resolved quickly so we can actually have officials who know what they are doing.
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
I think we are closer to it than most realize, getting them back. The reality has set in that this group of replacement refs are certainly trying to do a good job, but there are a lot of mistakes being made. They are not even close to what we have during the regular season. It's important to keep in mind, these folks aren't even the top college refs. They are a notch down from that. That's too much to overcome in my opinion. It's OK now, but I don't think the fans, the players and coaches will stand for replacements once we get to the regular season. I would think they would come to an agreement soon.
Do you see Chad Johnson ever playing for another NFL team?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I really think this could be the end of his career. I know a lot of people will say if there is an injury, he will get a call. But the way this happened has a lot of coaches totally disgusted. Not just the incident with his wife, which hasn't been proven, but that he was given a new chance in his hometown by a team that really needed him, and he had to be pulled aside for running his mouth. I thought he has learned his lesson and would quit playing to the cameras but that didn't happen. I would be very surprised if a NFL team gave him another shot.
Jason (Denver, CO)
What storyline are you most interested in this year?
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
The easiest one is Peyton in Denver. But let me go another direction. I think it is probably the 49ers. I've watched a lot of film on them and I don't see any weaknesses. They are a strong Super Bowl contender. I'm curious if they can be as good as I think they are with Alex Smith at QB. I think they can. I'm anxious to watch them as the season progresses. One other storyline that I really like ... I think this Wide 9 Philly defense that was criticized so much a year ago, will dominate this year. DeMarco Ryans at MLB will be huge. I think they will shatter the NFL record for sacks.
How do you think Weeden will perform against the Packers this week? Will Richardson be ready to go against the Eagles in Preseason or the regular season.
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
You hope for small improvements. He's going up against a defense that struggled a year ago that is also trying to improve. I worry that Weeden just doesn't have enough weapons in the passing game to be successful early. Without a run game to depend on, I think he can show some individual improvement that will encourage the coaches. Just not sure it will reflect itself in wins and losses.
Who cares if Chad Johnson plays again?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I'm with you, Michael. Who cares? I really am disappointed in how he handled this chance. I thought it was a nice match when they signed him. They really needed a premier receiver. For a guy who could come home and end his career with one more good stay, he just threw it away. He didn't embrace the opportunity. In this situation, I have no sympathy for him. Ironically, I was happy that T.O. got another chance. I would also love to see Plax play for someone. I think it is important to keep in mind that this Miami coaching staff really needed Chad Johnson and yet they were willing to part ways.
will the falcons make the playoffs
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I do think they will, but it's a very good division. Matt Ryan will take his game up a notch and Julio Jones will emerge to give them an excellent passing game. I think the running game can keep defenses honest. I think success will come down to how they cover on the back end of the defense. Hopefully they can avoid giving up lots of big plays. It's time for them to get to the next level.
What's your take on the problems the Jets have been having lately? Fluke or sign of concern?
Gary Horton (4:32 PM)
It's going to happen in training camps. It's hot and tempers are short. What concerns me is that it happened once, Rex addressed it, and then it happened again the very next day. That leads you to wonder whether the players are getting the message ... is the discipline there? I don't think it is a long-term big deal.
What do the Cowboys need, and how many years is it going to take them?
Gary Horton (4:33 PM)
I've watched a ton of film on them and I like the personnel. They have struggled to replace the third WR spot and the OL is really a work in progress with Tyron Smith the only guy today they can really count on. When you have 4 ?'s on OL, that is cause for concern. But they will get it together and be a sound football team.
Do you see Denver's defense becoming part of the top ten? They need a good defense to make it into the playoffs.
Gary Horton (4:35 PM)
I think they will be fine. I don't think they have to be great. They are changing schemes and we will see a lot more 4-3 with some 3-4. It will probably depend on how they play in the back end. How will the secondary hold up? Keep in mind, if Manning plays well they will be playing with the lead a lot. That allows you to play more subpackages and not give up as many big plays.
Is Alex Smith a bust? Can the 49ers win a Superbowl with him?
Gary Horton (4:36 PM)
I do believe they can win a SB with Smith. Harbaugh is such a sound coach that he will put him in a position to succeed. He doesn't have to be great in this offense. He has so many weapons including a great run game. His decision-making is solid and that is a result of his coaching. This guy doesn't throw a lot of INTs or turn the ball over. That is a big deal.
Do you believe the tradition will continue this year with at least 5 new playoff teams? If so, which teams do you see making that push this season? Or conversely who do you see falling out? If possible, explanation for one of them! thx
Gary Horton (4:38 PM)
It sure looks like it. I see some teams that have been at the bottom of the pile all of a sudden with a real chance to break through. I look at Buffalo, Seattle, Carolina as a few examples of teams that come to mind immediately as potential new playoff teams. If I was picking a Super Bowl that would feature two teams that would really surprise people it would be San Fran vs. Houston. I think both are headed for great seasons.
Green Bay gave up a ton of points on defense last year and I don't think that they made enough improvements in the draft like New England did. Do you think that it will cost them in the long run?
Gary Horton (4:41 PM)
No, I think they will be much better. They concentrated on defense in the draft. Their first six picks were all defense. They obviously felt they had to upgrade. I think the key though is Nick Perry becomes the edge pass rusher across from Clay Matthews that they have been missing. They need Williams at corner and BJ Raji at DT to have bounceback years. They need Woodson to perform as well. A middle of the pack defense would be good enough for this team to win it all. I think that is where they will be. They have emphasized tackling in camp this year so there should be improvemen there as well.
Gary Horton (4:43 PM)
The next two weeks really give us that feel we are looking for with each team. I think we will see the quality of play improve. We will see less vanilla schemes. I can't wait for the season to start! We'll talk again next week.