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 (4:02 PM)
Gary is here!
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, I think Rex Ryan will be the first head coach to go, which head are on the hot seat if their teams gets off to a bad start?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think his seat is the hottest, because of all of the distractions that have occurred over the last several years. He has a general manager that did not hire him. And he has a roster that, in my opinion, is at the bottom of the NFL in terms of talent. You know how tough things get in New York. If they get off to a bad start, I think that seat will be very, very hot. I think his only savig grace will be if his defense is really playing well.
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
But I don't think that would still save him.
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
Detroit is a situation that I would keep a close look at, if they don't start fast. Dallas also. Although ownership there has always been patient. I don't think we'll see a lot of changes, because that all happened this past offseason. There are so many new coaches in place that this will be a year where we don't see a lot of turnover.
desmond (seattle )
gary whose your favorite right now if you had to pick in the nfc west post crabtree injury ?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
I don't think it changes with Crabtree's injury. They still have a couple of guys they think will develop. They still have an outstanding run game. Keep in mind that Boldin is the ultimate chain mover on third down and in the red zone. They're looking for a guy who can stretch the field and give them some deep plays, which Crabtree can. I think young Jenkins could be that guy, if he continues to develop.
Michael [via mobile]
What do the Bengals have to gain by doing Hard Knocks? For a young team still looking for playoff success I believe this was an opportunity best ignored.
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think their coaches feel like that NFL Films is so organized and do such a good job that it makes players accountable and maybe play closer attention to detail because they know they're being filmed. They're also in a smaller market, with a team they probably feel is the best they've had in years. This is a chance to get out front. I think this is a veteran coaching staff that will handle the constant filming intrusions very well.
Nic (NLR, AR)
Pittsburgh Steelers, rebuilding time or not? With the age of the defense getting older and the team always seeming to play down to their opponents do you think the Steelers run at being one of the top teams done for a couple years until the young guns get in the defense and learnt he ropes?
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I think they feel that they still have a contending team and they're not rebuilding. But when I watch them on film, I think they're very close to that window, especially on defense. They have a lot of age on all three levels. They don't have a lot of depth. They don't have the number of weapons in the passing game that they've had in the past. I think the key for this season is to have a healthy Big Ben and hopefully a return of a physical run game that can give them some balance. When I look at this division, I think Cincinnati is really poised to have a nice year. I think Baltimore is in much better shape than we thought when they lost those players after the Super Bowl. And I even think Cleveland will be a little improved. This division looks like it's pretty evenly balanced. I'm not sure I see two teams getting into the playoffs from this division. I think the Steelers will be competitive, not elite, like a 10-6, 9-7 record.
It seems people ar emixed on the Bears offseason?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I like what the Bears have done, especially on offense. They've worked hard to improve a horrible offensive line. They now have a TE who can bring back that position in the passing game. I believe that Jay Cutler will flourish under Marc Trestman and his offense. However, I am concerned on defense. I don't think they can depend on creating all of those turnovers and big plays they did a year ago. I see age and lack of depth as a potential problem. If they hit any injuries, they could run into some problems. They could go either way in a division that's very competitive. Repeating last year's 10-6 record is a real challenge.
What kind of year do you think Andy Dalton will have. Ready for the next step? Will be fun to watch on Hard Knocks again.
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I think they certainly expect it. If I look at them on offense, they have a legitimate chance for the complementary receivers to improve to the point where they can take pressure off of AJ Green. TE Eifert and RB Bernard both have a chance to really improve this offense. They can have legit two TE packages. Dalton has more weapons than he's had in the past. I expect them to improve dramatically.
Can the Pats keep rolling, despite injuries, or will they finally take ahold?
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
The key is if they can get healthy by Week 1. Right now they have a lot of injuries, but it's June. If they can get a healthy Gronkowski and Hernandez back, they'll be fine. Tom Brady still has a lot of weapons. But I am concerned about a speed reciever outside, unless one of their rookies develop quickly. I actually like them a lot on the defensive side of the football. I think they'll be much better than they were a year ago. I think their OL is pretty good. As always, they'll be right in the thick of things. But, as you said, health is the key. They're committed to the multi-TE sets, but they need those guys on the field.
Jay (Long Island, NY)
I know the Jets are out for a bad season, but you keep saying they have the worst talent in the league. How about a bet; I take my woeful NYJ and you take the Raiders? What say you???
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
I would agree. I don't think the Jets have the worst talent in the league, they're just near the bottom and they're so far away, it's tough to fix quickly. But you're right, the Raiders are not very good, especially when you look at them on defense. Like the Jets, to me, it's a 2-3 year building process, at the least.
What prevents the 49ers from gettingback to the SB?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I don't think there is any question that they are a Super Bowl contender and an elite team. Their biggest challenge may be getting rid of the Seattle Seahawks in their own division. I see them as the two best teams in the NFC. When you evaluate the 49ers, I don't see any weaknesses, with the exception of developing another WR to replace Crabtree. But you could say the same for Seattle, who was really good in 2012 and they've added even more pieces, including Percy Harvin. That adds up to a great race with both teams probably going to the playoffs. I believe the 49ers will have to defeat the Seahawks at some point in January to play in the Super Bowl.
Any chance we see a sophomore slump for these young QBs?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think the ones that played on an elite level last year will continue, because they're just too good to fail. They all have in common that they had a great offseason to even learn more and become better because of their work ethic. I look at Kaepernick, Wilson, Luck, as sure bets to be terrific. I think RGIII is in that category if he's healthy. I think Tannehill will improve, but not to that elite category, yet. I think school is out for the rest of the guys, like, Ponder, Gabbert, Locker, Weeden.
Interesting things you'll be tracking once training camp opens in a month?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
You're always looking for great, position battles. You want to see how these QBs are developing. I also think it's risky to overreact in training camp, because the team we see in August isn't always the team we see in September. Obviously, you're following things like health and injuries, as we get closer to the season.
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
And, now that I think about it, probably the thing I look the most at in training camp, is how the new coaches are implementing their philosophies into the offense and defense and what kind of progress they're making.
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
That will be critical as we get to Week 1.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I think we're right to the point now where everybody takes a break for the next month. Well deserved for the players and coaches. But, as I said last week, this is always a time of concern for NFL organizations, because you let these players go off on their own for a month before they report back to the team. You just hope that they have the maturity and focus to stay out of trouble, even though you've warned them a hundred times. I'm sure every coach in this league will have a sigh of relief when all of those guys come back safe and sound in July. This scares them to death.