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!
Reid (Dallas) [via mobile]
What will the Cowboys have to do to get over the hump? (Besides the o-line problem)
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
They've got to get clutch play from Tony Romo. They need to develop balance in the offense with an improve running game. And they are installing a brand new defense that these players have never run. There is certainly a lot of work to do, but they have a good enough talent level to get it done.
Nick A. (Boca Raton, FL)
Do you like the Dolphins chances to challenge and perhaps beat the Patriots for the AFC East title? Why or why not?
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
I think they're a lot closer than they've been. Obviously, they spent liberally. It really comes down to Ryan Tannehill. They have a good enough defense to keep them in most games. Now, Tannehill has weapons in the passing game. He has potentially a good running attack. There are not a lot of excuses to not take this to the next level. The players and coaches know each other better. New England may be the most vulnerable we've seen them in a long time. But certainly Miami should be better than the Jets and the Bills.
What, in your opinion would the first four games of the season be like for the Broncos with NO Von Miller, assuming he is suspended?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
Obviously this is a good, veteran football team. They are probably able to overcome his loss on the field, however that's a lot of big plays they're probably giving up. I think this has a bigger negative mental effect than people realize. We're on the edge of training camp. There is tremendous excitement in Denver about the season. Now, you have three of these situations - two front office executives and their marquee defensive player. I think it sends such a negative feeling as we start training camp. On the outside looking in, this one really surprises me, because Von Miller seems like such a responsible guy. I think that will really have an effect on them Broncos' fans and teammates, because this one you never saw coming.
Gary, is Cutler a good fit in Tresman's offense? What kind of numbers can we expect out of him with better targets?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
He is a great fit for Trestman, who runs a very QB friendly offense. The whole key here is will Cutler listen to him and allow himself to be coached. Trestman will shorten the passing game. He will create an offense that gets Cutler less sacks and they will spread the ball around to more targets than Brandon Marshall. If this duo gets along, and they're on the same page, knowing that Cutler is in a contract year, this could have a very happy ending.
As an athlete, Terrelle Pryor seems to be an equal of RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton. However, he doesn't appear to have the confidence of his coaches. What does he lack that the others have?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
First of all, he just doesn't have any game experience in the NFL. He does have the athletic ability. He can run. But he is so far behind in his ability to recognize defenses and make good decisions. That comes with reps and snaps. He just hasn't gotten them. But I will say this, his coaches have had a lot of time to evaluate him and they have not put him in a real competitive situation to get quality play yet. That has to tell you something.
BrianAlexis Oklahoma City [via mobile]
Do the Redskins have a shot at the Super Bowl?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I personally don't think so. I thought they played better last year than we all expected. Obviously, if RG III is healthy and can give them a full season, it dramatically improves their season. But I don't know if they're good enough on defense to be competitive every week. I don't see a team that has great depth if they are hit by injuries. Having said all of that, I think the NFC East is probably not as strong as it's been, which means any of the four teams have a chance to win it. I just have a feeling that the Redskins will take a little bit of a step back this season.
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
Keep in mind, they have not been able to upgrade this roster this offseason.
Derek (Chapel Hill)
Gary, seeing as the Panthers have done next to nothing in Free Agency, is this going to be a continuing trend for the next few years, or when will they FINALLY be proactive in signing big name free agents? Also, how much longer will they be in Salary Cap Hell? Thanks
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I think they're an organization that wants to build through the draft. But like most teams, if they had a specific need and they can fill it through free agency, they'd do it. But they're a young group and they like building the roster that way. They have more good players than people realize. I think they'll be very competitive this year.
Everyone is crowning the Broncos as champs but they've quietly had a somewhat rough offseason. How improved/worse do you see their D getting and also what major contributions have they added, FAgency seems like a while ago and I'm drawing blanks.
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
I think they'll be better, because they've been together a year. Peyton Manning has a comfort level with his teammates. They have added potential production at RB. They obviously have great weapons at WR. This is a very sound defense. Obviously, the optimism is well founded. When I watch them on film, they don't have a lot of weaknesses. If they ever get offensive balance with their run game, they'll be almost impossible to stop. But, I do think, these off-the-field situations will really hold over them in training camp. I see the Broncos as being a team that takes pride in their image. That image has taken a beating in the last month.
Is this the year, with a new offense that Darren McFadden finally lives up to his potential. That man has some serious talent.
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
They are changing their blocking schemes to more of a man concept than zone, which I think fits better with what they have. But I think the whole key will be McFadden's help. He hasn't been able to get through a whole season. He is now on an offense that doesn't look very good in the passing game. I think it will be a run first mentality against the Raiders which means a lot of 8-man fronts and that doesn't make it any easier.
What are your thoughts on the new offense in Chicago with Martellus Bennet taking some pressure off Brandon Marshall.
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I think he is a tremendous addition to them. If you watch the Bears on film over the last several years, you realize that they did not use the TE position very well, especially in the passing game. That will all change under Marc Trestman. He will move Bennett around. He'll line him up wide. He will constantly look for matchups against LBs and safeties. I think Jay Cutler will grow to really trust Bennett at a position which he has not had a quality guy in a few years.
Before you sign off, thank you for your insights. Always good perspective.
Is Buffalo's switch to a 3-4 defense a questionable given the investment they made in Mario Williams? Didn't the Texan elect not to compete for him in free agency because of their own switch to 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I think your point is well taken. One of the reasons he came to Buffalo is to come to a 4-3 defense where he could be a true defensive end. That lasted a whole year. However, I have been told that even though they'll be a 3-4 defense and his official position will be OLB, almost all of his responsibilities will be as a pass rusher in those situations. I do not think, like a lot of 3-4 OLBs that he will not drop back in snaps. If he is an upfield guy, almost every down, then I think he'll be fine.
Recently the Jets were ranked dead last in the ESPN Power Rankings. I may speak with bias as a fan but are they really worse than the Jaguars? I feel with Chris Ivory and a younger faster front 7 we have a chance at mediocrity. Am I wrong?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think that's a fair argument. I've watched them both on film. I think there is considerable separation above them after these two teams. I think the problem is similar in both situations. They don't have playmakers on offense or defense. They have questions at QB. They turn the ball over. Both are really challenged to score enough points. Obviously, because of where they are, the Jets receive more publicity and maybe more is expected, but I don't think either team has much of a chance because I don't know where the players are coming from. The Jags at least have a RB in MJD, who's been productive in the past, but I don't know if that will continue.
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
When I watch the Jets on film, I see DE Muhammed Wilkerson as their best player. If I'm right, that's a little bit alarming, if he is their only elite player on defense.
Do you like David Wilson in NY? He has some jets, reminds me of Barry Sanders, almost with his quick acceleration form a stop.
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I do. Although I have big picture questions about the Giants run game and how effective it can be. Wilson has a lot of promise. I think two things are very important to be the guy they want him to be: protect the football and don't turn it over, and, also, pick up the blitz and pass block. If he can do those two things, then I think the normal run skills that he has will help him, especially in an offense that has good enough weapons in the passing game to discourage teams from loading up to stop the run.
Matt (St. Paul)
With no more excuses available...is this the year Christian Ponder makes the leap?
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
The expectations are that this is his make or break year, like a lot of these young QBs. But I sense in Minnesota that they feel pretty good about Ponder. I think that most people in the organization are betting on the fact that he can be the guy there. He did lose Percy Harvin, but he has enough offensive weapons to be successful. Certainly he has a running game to take some pressure off. I expect him to be OK. We know one thing, that if a team like the Vikings has to start over at QB, it can put you back five years in your development. That's why they'll give him every chance to be the guy. Out of all of the young guys we talk about in that category, like Locker, Gabbert, etc. there is real optimism for Ponder's success.
Gary Horton (4:33 PM)
I'm sure everybody is excited that training camps are starting. As we say every week, once these players report, the chances for getting into trouble off the field lessen considerably. I think we're headed into a very exciting 2013 season. But one thing that NFL organizations have told me that is a concern in training camp is their ability to get ready for a physical season without enough time in pads. That can really negatively effect a new team that's putting in new schemes. It will be interesting to see if all of these new teams will be ready at the beginning of the season.