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!
Are the Giants the default favorite in the NFC East right now?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I wouldn't say that. I've watched the Giants on film in the offseason and I think they have some real issues they have to deal with, including health and age. I think this whole division has taken a step back in terms of power. I think all four teams are going to be very even, but I only think one team will go to the playoffs. To me, this looks like a 9-7 type division right now. I think the Redskins will take a step back with RGIII. Dallas certainly isn't a sure thing with all of their turmoil. I think the most interesting thing to watch will be the Eagles, whether Chip Kelly's schemes will work in this division. The Eagles do have good personnel if they can make a quick adjustment to a new system.
MARI IL [via mobile]
Is it just me or do the bears have a realistic shot at the superbow
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
I don't see them as a Super Bowl team yet. I think the key will be their improvement on offense. I think Marc Trestman will be better than most people think in getting Jay Cutler and this passing game back on top. But you have to be concerned with the blocking up front. Ironically, my biggest concern for the Bears is on defense. I don't see any way they can match the takeaways and big plays from a year ago. These guys are a year older. I think that defensive window will start to close quicker than people realize. This is a good division, nothing will come easy. But if the Trestman/Cutler relationship is good, they can be competitive in most every game.
Is it just me or do the jets have a realistic shot of going 8 and 8?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I don't see that as a possibility. As I have watched them this offseason on film, I think right now they have arguably the least talented roster in the NFL. I just don't know where the plays come from, especially on offense. This has a chance to be an embarrassingly bad passing game. A productive run game would be a surprise. We don't know what will happen at QB. I think their only chance to be competitive is if Rex Ryan has the defense playing at their very best. But even there they don't have a lot of playmakers. I just look at the Jets as a team that if they start off badly, they could throw in the towel and this whole organization might have to start over. I hope I'm wrong. I don't know if I've ever seen a team fade so quickly, but it would surprise me if they won more than 5-6 games.
Do you think Sam Bradford has a good year now that he has some weapons and a solid O-Line?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
Improvement is on the way. He just needs to stay healthy. He has a good arm and now, you're right, he has potentially, good weapons to spread the ball around. He has an improving defense to help him on that side of the ball. I see the Rams as a team ready to take another step of improvement. The problem is they're playing in the same division as Seattle and San Francisco, which I think are two of the best teams in the NFL. A big a question will be can they run the ball by committee with Steven Jackson gone to Atlanta.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, Which are the toughest division to predict this year? I think the NFC East would be the top of the list.
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I would probably agree with you for the reasons we talked about earlier in this chat. I don't think there's an elite team in this division right now. All four teams have a lot of question marks. All four have some serious holes to fill. I look at the NFC East as a 9-7 type division, where the games will be close and the division might not be decided until the end of the season. But I don't see a Super Bowl contender coming out of this division, nor do I see two teams coming out of this division. When I watch this division, it doesn't look like anything like the power teams we used to see.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - do you see the Eagles having some growing pains implementing Chip Kelly's offense early in the season or do you think they might be successful while other teams are adjusting and studying them in the first few games?
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
I think you're right on both points. It's going to be a very fast paced attack with a high volume of plays. That can be a good thing if you're moving the football on offense because you wear out opposing defenses and keep them on the field a lot. But it can also be a bad thing if you're struggling to reach more first downs. Now you're putting your own defense on the field. I think they can be really good on offnese, but I worry about defense. Can they hold up on coverages? Can they get back that pass rush that used to protect them and help them on the back end.
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
But I know a lot of people who think this offense won't work in the NFL. I've watched a lot of Oregon film in the last few months. I think this game adapts better than a lot of people realize. I know, like every new fad, defenses will eventually figure it out, but I think it will be fun to watch for a year or two.
Which prolonged absence would hurt Eli more: Cruz or Nicks?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
I think it would probably be Cruz, because he's such a big play guy and he seems to ignite this offense. When they play him in the slot, which is his most natural position, this becomes a tough offense to stop in their 3 WR package, because he's getting matched on a third CB. I think Eli really trusts him. But the Giants can not afford to lose either guy for a long period of time. When I look at them, their margin of error is not as big as it's been in the past.
MARI IL [via mobile]
I asked this question to the giants reporter and since you been around the league for a while i want your take do you think with another superbowl win Eli will be better than his brother thats assuming peyton doesnt get another one
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
That's a very interesting question, because the Giants seem like the proverbial can with 9 lives. I don't think a lot of us saw Eli with a Super Bowl win each time he won it. There's just something about the Manning family and their resilience and their ability to play under pressure. Peyton has had the better career, but I think if Eli had a third Super Bowl, it would be hard to argue against that. The only really knock you can make on the Giants is that maybe they are not quite as consistent with elite years every season. But it would be an interesting comparison.
Rich (Sacramento, CA)
Do you think Colin Kaepernick will continue to improve or will losing Crabtree this year cause him to take a step backwards
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
Oh, I think he's definitely going to get better. I love his attitude this offseason, in terms of training and trying to improve. I think we see more consistency of him in the passing game and a little less running. When I look at his weapons on offense, he is spectacular. He's blessed to have a good OL and running game behind him. I think he'll miss Crabtree. But remember, they got Anquan Boldin from Baltimore. He's not a vertical guy, but he's an absolute beast on third down and in the red zone. Their other guys will be fine in the passing game. When they get Crabtree back, they will be even more dangerous. But I see this QB as a guy who is only going to get better.
Did the Bears make a mistake with the coaching change?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I was a huge Lovie Smith fan, because I think his players loved him. Remember this was a team with a good record a year ago. He was really a strong coach on the defensive side of the ball. But I think there was a feeling that he got as much out of this group as he could. And I think they felt as a group they weren't close to where they wanted to be offensively. Marc Trestman is a risky higher, because there isn't a book on him, in terms of being a head coach. A lot of people look at this as a roll of the dice and a thinking outside the box hire. I know Marc Trestman and how he coaches offense. If Jay Cutler listens to him, this offense has a chance to be elite. Where the questions may come are on defense. Age and lack of depth may catch up to them and they might not play as well as last year. That may cause fans to say they shouldn't have fired Lovie. But I think the window for them to be elite is closing. We could see another season of them being good again, but this time carried by the offense.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, Oakland Raiders lease with O.co Coliseum expires after the 2013 NFL season, the only NFL team to share a stadium with a MLB Team and the Raiders have been linked to a possible move to Los Angeles. Will they renew and stay in Oakland, look locally or is Los Angeles really in the realm of possibility?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
Well, I don't follow that, much any more, because that's been such a roller coaster for years. But when I look at the L.A. situation and the fact that they can not build a stadium, when they know there are teams that they could attract to play there, it certainly seems to me that they're just not that serious. I don't Mark Davis, Al's son, feels about relocation, but I would expect them to stay in the Bay Area. Although if they don't start putting a better product on the field, fans may not care. But from the outside looking in, L.A. has had every incentive to get a stadium, when teams like Jacksonville and San Diego could relocate and yet they just don't get it done.
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
As teams go through minicamps this week, we're now getting to the vacation point of the year, where players will get about a month break, coaches will get a well deserved break while everyone gears up for training camp. As I know, from having been in the league, this is a month you look forward to, because you can get some rest and be ready to go. But I also know that it scares coaches to death, because all of these players are on their own for the next month. Even though every coach warns his players about staying out of trouble and doing the right things, especially when they have the free time like this, it seems like the players don't always get the message. You want them to have some time to refresh, but you just hope they all come back the same way they left.
Buzzmaster (4:31 PM)