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!
Buzzmaster (4:01 PM)
We've got Gary!
Do you think the NFC North is the toughest division? I think it might have something to do with the them having the best WR, RB, QB and K in the league all in there division.
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think you could make a case for it, top to bottom. We know Green Bay is an elite team. Detroit, even though they underachieved has a lot of stars. Chicago and Minnesota can be competitive and maybe make the playoffs. As I think about all of the other divisions, while I hadn't thought about this question, you just might be right. I want to like the NFC West, but the bottom half isn't very good. The NFC East, which I think we've all thought has been tough the last few years, has taken a step back and the same can be said about the AFC North.
The Packers receiving options lack star power with the departure of G. Jennings, but they are still one of the best groups in the league. Where do you rank them?
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
I think one of their greatest strengths has been the depth of their passing game. They could always roll out multiple receiver threats. But now, I don't think they have that luxury. Now they have to maintain their health. I think Randall Cobb is a future star and I think with drafting two RBs, it will give this offense more balance and a playaction package they haven't had in years. Aaron Rodgers will finally get some man to man matchups that have been lacking because secondaries have been playing so deep because they don't fear the run. This passing game can be special, but they must stay healthy.
Why does ARI management think reuniting Mathieu with some of his LSU buddies helps constitute a good support structure? They didn?t help him stay out of trouble at LSU.
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
Patrick Peterson has taken him under his wing and they trained together before the draft. I think that the coaches and organization have a lot of faith that Peterson can be a strong role model and mentor. I also think that Larry Fitzgerald will be a tremendous influence on him in that lockerroom. Getting out of the college environment, where he had all of his problems, will be a real positive. He'll now be around a lockerroom full of men. But he'll also have a very short leash. There won't be a lot of tolerance for any missteps.
Who do you see as the favorite for Jets' QB?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
Based on how he practiced over the weekend, it looks like Geno Smith really moved to the front. He seemed to handle the offense well in rookie camp. He seems to be getting better at handling the pressure of being in New York. I think the coaches really like his physical skills. In my mind, this is going to be a bad football team in 2013, so why not grow with a rookie QB as they rebuild this roster? Unless people think they'll be so bad that they don't want Smith to get manhandled and lose his confidence, but I don't think that's the case.
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I honestly think that they'll start to look to move Mark Sanchez.
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
Unless, Smith takes a step back in mini camp and Sanchez just lights it up.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, It seems like the 49ers & Seahawks are becoming the NFC favorites for the Championship Game
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I think you are exactly right. I look at both of these teams and I like them a lot a year ago. I think there are so many similarities. They are well coached. They are astute in personnel decisions. They have difference makers on every level of offense and defense and they areyoung enough to be good for a long time. This is going to become a great rivalry. As I look around the NFC, I'm not sure who can really challenge them right now.
Kurtis, TX [via mobile]
What's the impact of Brian Cushing's return for the Texans?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I know his loss last season was key for them. Not only was he an excellent leader, who can get everybody lined up, but he is athletic and productive versus the run, but where they missed him the most was against the pass. He is an inside LB that stays on the field on third down. He's very good in coverage. Having to substitute him in nickel packages really hurts their versatility.
How would you grade Idzik on his work for the Jets so far?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I think he's doing the best job he can under tough circumstances. I understand trading Derrelle Revis and a tough cap situation. He did the best he could to add some mid level talent and plug some holes. But when I look at them on film, I honestly think they're the worst roster in the NFL. I don't see any game breakers on offense. I don't see any impact players on defense. I think it will take a long time and a lot of patience to make them a viable team. I am in absolute shock that this is the same team that went to the AFC title game a couple of years ago. Maybe Rex Ryan is a better coach than we all think.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, like you mentioned about the Packers achieving better balance with an improved running game, do you think the same could be said about the Vikings with their improved passing game?
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
I'm not sure how improved their passing game will be. They added Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings. They have a gamebreaker TE in Kyle Rudolph. But they also lost Percy Harvin. That eliminates a lot of big potential plays. A lot of their success will come down to how Ponder plays at QB. We assume their run game will be what it always is with AD. Their defense should be solid. So I think it's all on Ponder to play with consistency. If that happens, they'll be right in the middle of things.
What team do you see taking a big leap forward as far as wins?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I really have a good feeling about the Cincinnati Bengals, because I think they can be very versatile and now have more weapons on offense. I really like what they've done in the offseason. But two teams that we may not expect a lot from, but I'm intrigued by are Chicago and Philadelphia. I've studied both offenses of Chip Kelly and Marc Trestman and I think these guys will have surprising success on the NFL level. These offenses will be surprising to watch and they both can be very productive. Both defenses will have to play well to give them balance. I think that probably puts more pressure on Philly than Chicago, because they were a mess on defense a year ago. They are two teams that really bear watching. There are probably half a dozen teams that are in the same boat.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What Quarterbacks who were selected in the 2013 NFL Draft will Play in 2013?
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
I think Geno Smith is really starting to look like a guy that they want to start for the Jets. I think the same could be said for EJ Manuel in Buffalo, because I think we have two teams that need a face of the franchise to build around. I don't think there's any advantage for either of these guys to sit, especially when you don't have any other option to play. I think the other guys will probably learn for at least a year, unless there are injuries. But a guy that really intrigues me is Matt Barkley in Philadelphia. I think he fits this offense better than a lot of people realize. I don't think he'll start as a rookie, I think he could start in his second year or maybe sometime during this season if Vick falters. But I think he's a guy to really watch.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - the Jets totally mishandled Tim Tebow last year but it is difficult to believe not one team is showing any interest. Despite all of his flaws he did help Denver win a couple of years ago. Are his off the field issues that come along with him one of the reasons even the most QB needy teams are shying away?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I think everybody loves his character. They love his dedication. They don't necessarily love the circus that follows him. I think it's the view of most guys in the league that he just hasn't made enough progress to get anybody excited. I think he'll be entering his fourth year in the NFL. I think there's a feeling that we needed to see more by now and we're not. The fact that he won't consider a new position might hold some teams back that could create a nice package. I would love to see Tim Tebow in this league. I like everything he stands for. I think it's going to be very difficult for him to get a job, especially when you look at the draft and see all of the teams that need backup or depth needs on the roster, they filled them in the late rounds. It's a frustrating story, but it is what it is.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
Well, as we always talk about, this is a terrific learning period for these young players. They can get a lot done before teams take a break in the middle of June for vacation. In today's NFL, they are so prepared when they go to training camp that it really speeds up their preparation for the season. It really improves the quality of play. While this might be a boring month for us, it's not for coaches and players.
Buzzmaster (4:31 PM)
Thanks for chatting Gary!