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!
Is this the year Muhammad Wilkerson makes the Pro Bowl?
Gary Horton (4:03 PM)
I think it may be. I have really started to appreciate the way he plays after watching him closer on film. I now think that he is the one elite player on this defense. I believe he can become a disruptive pass rusher and a good run stopper. I think he's going to improve into a really productive DL.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - the Geno Smith no show at Mark Sanchez's Jets West camp has drawn a lot of media coverage. Considering the other 2 QB's on the Jets roster also chose not to participate makes me feel this is less of a story than it is being made out to be. What is your take on it?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I totally agree with you. I don't think that it was necessary at all. I think Smith has a comfort level in where he's training right now, I believe in Florida. I don't think that you need to disrupt all of that just for a few days of chemistry. They've got between now and September to develop all of that stuff.
Should the Bears and their fans be concerned about all the free-agents to be for '14? Melton reporting not to have a multi-year deal before deadline.
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I think they're concerned, but I think everybody is concerned. Most really successful teams do a good job of tying up their own players before their free. I think the Bears will try to do that. I worry a little bit about their age on defense. I don't know how much longer they can play at the high level we've see the last couple of years.
John (New Hampshire)
Gary, can the Pats potentially field a Top 10 defense w/o Denard?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
In all honesty, he played pretty well. If he wasn't there, it would certainly hurt. The weakness of their defense is probably their secondary depth. I've watched a lot of film on New England and I think this is an up and coming defense. I think they have some young guys that will improve. I actually think this year, at least early in the season, they could be huge carrying their team while the offense gets things worked out. I know that seems odd, but I don't see them as a one-dimensional pass offense this year.
John (Naples, FL)
I know the Bills are not a playoff team but they do appear to be laying a foundation for the future. How do you see the Bills?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think they are improving. They have better personnel than people realize. A lot of pieces are already in place. They have a potential of a good running game. Improved passing game. They should be one of the best DLs in football and I really like their secondary. I think they need to get better at LB, maybe a little more depth at WR and they need consistency at QB. If the new head coach Doug Marrone is as good as I think he is, they're going to be competitive.
GB, SF, Seattle...then who?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think you are absolutely right, there are a lot of good teams, but not necessarily great that could jump into that category. I think Atlanta, with New Orleans not very far behind. I know somebody will likely emerge from the NFC East, but I don't think any one of those four teams overly excites you right now.
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I don't think I've ever gone into an NFL season with more of a wait and see attitude, not really knowing what to expect from teams, like Philly, Chicago, etc. We have some new coaches that we just don't know enough about. This, to me, looks like a year where we could really have some exciting races, with teams emerging that we didn't expect. I was in a meeting today where we were talking about the NFC West a couple of years ago was the laughing stock of the NFL. The NFC East was the powerhouse. Now, the NFC West could be the best division in football.
To re: to the Bears defense aging- I think this is a little overblown, as they have promising players at LB, DE, DT and Safety. Sure, CB is concerning and maybe a little transition to the new backers.
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I actually do agree with you. I thought a couple of years ago that they would let this defense get old and then rebuild. But they've quietly done a good job of restocking it without having to start over. It all might be an overreaction, but it just seems like they've been together a long time. And when you create as many turnovers as they have, you wonder how long that can last. They do, as you say, have some good young pieces. But they need some good play at CB and they have got to improve the safety position.
When's the last time you had so many questions about so many teams as we enter a new season?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I absolutely agree with you. I think it's because you have a lot of young QBs that can either improve to the next level or stay the same or regress. We also have so many new coaches and we really don't know exactly what their schemes will look at. That makes the players ability to get comfortable quickly in these new schemes very critical to their success. I think it makes for an exciting season, but I don't see a lot of divisions with teams that will run away with it.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
How much should Browns fans expect from Weeden and the new offensive system?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
I think the new system will actually fit him very well. Their head coach Chudzinski and OC Norv Turner both love to stretch the field and throw the seam routes. That's something that Weeden should be really good at. He wasn't a great fit for a West Coast offense that he saw a year ago. When I watch him, he's more of a drop back, deep thrower and he will get that chance. I believe he will be more productive than a lot of people realize, especially if Trent Richardson can stay healthy and give them balance in the run game.
Who's the better fit in their new offense- Forte or Bush? Both should have over 60-70 receptions.
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
I agree that they can both be very productive, but I think Forte can be terrific. New coach Marc Trestman will be creative in ways to get him the ball as an outlet receiver and screen plays, etc. If Cutler is getting the ball to his backs, in a lot of situations, that means the ball is getting out quickly and he's not taking as many deep, seven-step drops, which is where he gets a lot of his hits. The backs will be a big part of this passing game, along with the TE. That was not the case a year ago.
Gary, talk to me about why so many people are hating on the Colts this year. In my opinion I think that they are capable of having the exact type of year. They drafted a pass-rusher in Werner, and they got Bradshaw to share the load with Ballard. Plus, Luck has matured and gotten used to the style of play in the AFC South
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I think they'll be about the same as last year. To be honest, I think they overachieved and played over their talent level. There is a lot to like about them. They have a new OC who will shorten the passing game. Luck will take less hits, which I think is very important to their offense. I also believe that these players are now getting more comfortable with both sides of the ball. I like their offensive weapons. I think their biggest improvement will be on defense. This new coaching staff has made the transition from a Cover-2 zone team to a man to man more physical defense. It's taken them a little time to not only grasp the system, but also get the players to fit into it. With Luck there, they don't need to be great on defense, but if they're just average, they'll have a chance.
Given the situation he walked into, do you think Reggie McKenzie is taking the right approach to fixing the Raiders organizational mess? Do you like the personnel moves he has made given the constraints he has to work under?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I think it's not only the right approach, but it's the only approach. Obviously, they've had to clean up a huge salary cap mess. McKenzie comes from the Packers' philosophy of you build through the draft. You develop your own talent and you don't overspend for veterans, but instead you plug them in. The problem is it's going to take some time. When you examine their roster on film, they, along with the Jets and Jags have the least amount of talent in the NFL. I believe they'll be very patient and build this roster through the draft. I don't think they'll spend a lot in free agency through the next couple of years.
Will Demarco Murray ever get it together in Dallas? How does Callahans offenses treat the rb's?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
Callahan, I believe, will emphasize the running game more than it was a year ago. I believe they want offensive balance and they want to be more physical. Going back into last season, this looked like it was going to be a really good OL, but they had some injuries. They never had a chance to develop into a good run blocking unit. If Murray is ever going to have a chance, this is probably the season to do it.
Are you drinking the kool-aid on Lamar Miller and David Wilson?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I like Kool-Aid, but I'm not sure I'm drinking that Kool-Aid. As we've talked about, there are so many question marks going into this season and to me, that's one of those big ones that I don't know the answer yet. I'm worried about Wilson as a pass blocker and blitz pick up. That can get a young guy out of the lineup, especially with a veteran coaching staff. I worry a little bit about the age of this OL. They've been good for so long that I don't know if they're a dominant unit any more. I don't know if Tom Coughlin has the physical, pounding run game that can set up the playaction and be dominant. I'm not sure anybody in that division is necessarily elite on offense.
Who do you see in the Super Bowl this year?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
Oh boy......I love Seattle and San Francisco. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Seattle in the NFC, especially if they win their division and their playoff games are at home. In the AFC, I don't see how you can go against the Denver Broncos. I think they have everything you need, with a great QB. I just think they're going to play very steady. Like Seattle, they'd be very tough to beat in Denver, in January.
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I'm sure the fans on the east coast would love a Super Bowl with two western teams.
Gary Horton (4:32 PM)
I'm sure that, like all of us, NFL coaches are just hoping that all of these players can get through another 10 days to 2 weeks without problems or distractions. Once they get to training camp and in a controlled environment, I think everybody can rest easy.