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, breaking 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!
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I had mixed reactions from the games in Week 1. I thought many of them were exciting and I loved that several came down to the wire. But it was also very apparent that it's going to take a few weeks for these teams to really get into a flow. You can tell that a lot of the regulars did not play much during the preseason. So, the timing wasn't there. But I don't think we've entered a season with so many storylines.
Stuart (Brooklyn, NY)
What will the Pats do with Ridley? Do you think he'll play a major role this year? Thanks Gary!
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
Well, I know Bill Belichick hates mistakes and in New England you can get into the doghouse quickly if the coaches don't trust you. They have other backs who are capable, but they need Ridley. I'd be surprised if they don't give him another chance. They are committed to having a better run game.
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
By the way, was it just me or did the Patriots really look out of sync against Buffalo? I thought they were excited about the new chemistry with Brady and the new receivers, but I didn't see it. I think this is still a work in progress. I didn't think they were as good as we expected. But they have time to iron things out.
I was at the Jets game yesterday, and Geno looked solid when the Jets let him run the offense. A couple of rookie mistakes, but he seemed to gain confidence as the game went on. Keep in mind, he pulled out the win without any semblance of a run game. What's your take on his performance?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
Probably a little better than I thought. I really thought he'd struggle with his decision making. In all honesty, I thought he really struggled reading coverages early in the game. I just don't think he's a guy who can read progressions. But on the positive side, the game didn't seem too big for him. He has the physical skills to compete. I think that if you're a Jets fan, you're optimistic, even though you played a team in the Bucs who looked like they were in their first preseason game.
Zach Williams (Nashua NH)
Who are you taking? Redskins or Eagles?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
That is really a tough thing to call. There are so many question marks. What will they do with RG III? Will they be conservative or let him run? What will we see from this new Philadelphia defense? Supposedly, they have a lot more to show than we saw in the preseason. I don't know if we've ever gone into a Week 1 game not knowing what to expect. The key to the game is the Redskins defense not allowing the Eagles' uptempo offense to dominate. That means London Fletcher needs to get the defensive calls in quickly and get everyone lined up so the Redskins defense is ready at the snap.
I know its the first game but the Steelers Offense looked poor again to start the year? Is there any hope there?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I came away from that game really concerned for the Steelers, because I don't know if their problems are fixable. Their run game is non-existent and I don't know how it gets better. Their OL looked really overrated in the preseason and now they've lost their best player in Pouncey for the year. They don't have a dominating WR and on defense age is a factor. I was shocked at how bad they looked. The problem here is at some point Big Ben is going to take the bull by the horns and try to win it himself, but I'm not sure that's the right answer.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - do the Patriots have an added edge this Thursday having just played against a team that has a similar defensive philosophy as the Jets or can that work in favor of NY?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
Obviously Buffalo was a short trip and they play at home on Thursday, so travel is not a factor. This Patriots coaching staff does a good job of getting their gameplans together. I'm sure they worked on the Jets last week. I think they'll be fine. These two teams know each other, so there's not a lot of newness this week.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
The Browns looked out of sync, to be kind. Can they straighten it out?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
That's another tough question. I just don't think Brandon Weeden will be the ultimate answer at QB. Maybe he'll be better when he gets Josh Gordon back. But I didn't think he looked sharp yesterday. His receivers didn't separate and dropped some balls. It looks to me that their best chance to win is to run the ball and play good defense. I just didn't come away from that game feeling that they were an explosive team.
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
Maybe the best thing for them is the fact that the AFC North, while still a good division, may not have a dominating team.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, if the Chargers win 10 games and not make the playoffs will there be a lot of changes at the end of the season and whose on the hot seat at the start of the season?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
Well, certainly not on the organizational or coaching level, because they're all new. I think they would look long and hard at the QB position and Rivers' future if they played poorly. I think they'd also look at RB and decide on Mathews' future. But this team has a lot of holes and it's going to take a while to build it back up. I think a little patience is needed, even though nobody in San Diego wants to hear it.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Out of all the major Super Bowl contenders Atlanta had the most miserable of preseasons. They came out strong in the 1Q but seemed to continue their preason struggles as the game continued. Does their early season schedule help or hurt them straighten themselves out?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
I certainly don't think losing in New Orleans in front of an emotional crowd is something to be worried too much about. Those were two well matched teams. That game could have gone either way. I really believe the Saints will be OK. I'm a little concerned about their OL. I'm a little concerned about their pass rush. But I think they have a good roster. There are a lot of positives. They'll be fine. I would not overreact to yesterday's loss.
The 49ers are earning their reputation as the league's best team. That said, how about the Pack? Not only did they make the Niners run game insignificant but they won the battle at the line against a great o-line and had a lead late in a game on the road they could have won. Great game by two teams who could meet in January.
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
Yeah, if there is such a thing as a character loss in the NFL, which there is not, this would have been it. It was really an uphill battle, playing in San Francisco. I thought they played with a lot of emotion. I think they'll be fine. I think the 49ers totally surprised them by going away from the read-option and throwing the football so much. I think the biggest concern for the Packers right now are the health and production of their secondary. Also, are they going to be good enough at OT to protect Rodgers. Their passing game will be fine, the run game will come around. I think they'll be a competitive team. It surprises me that they've fallen under the radar this preseason. We haven't talked much about them being an elite team. We all know if they can win enough to play at home in January, that gives them a huge advantage.
The fact that the Giants were in that game at the end shows how good they are (or how average dallas is): if Giants can fix the turnovers, they'll be in it....
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
I think you're right. But I came away with a little different twist on the game. I wondered if the Dallas defense was this much improved or did the Giants self-destruct and make them look better than they are? I think Tom Coughlin will clean up the mistakes. I think the Cowboys defense will improve, but not be as good as they were last night. If I'm a Giants fan, I'm a little concerned that Eli is going to have to carry us if we are to win and he doesn't have a run game. I just don't know if we can expect him to be great every week. Having said that, I think the NFC East is really balanced with four good, not great, teams.
I know the Phins did not look great yesterday, but I'll take any win on the road. Your thoughts?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think their defense is going to be fine and probably the strength of their team. Ryan Tannehill is going to be fine. But they need to get Mike Wallace more involved. I would be a little concerned that their running game wasn't very good. But they were like a lot of teams in Week 1, they weren't very crisp and they'll improve each week. But I do like their defense.
Ed (Queens Village)
Who had better rookie performance yday Geno or E.J.?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I thought E.J. Manuel. He looked a little more natural. He's a big guy. Great arm strength. Like I said earlier about Geno, he seemed to have good composure against a team that could have really intimidated him. When you see a young guy like that play with confidence, it gives you good hope for the future. Geno ran a little better than I anticipated, but he is not going to ever be a real scrambling QB like some of these guys.
Gary, what should Giants fans take from the game last night? Are the Giants just an undisciplined, sloppy team that will be doomed by a lack of a running game and a poor O-line? Or can they clean up the turnover situation and take advantage of an explosive passing game and a seemingly improved defense?
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I think Coughlin can probably clean up the fumbles. But we knew going into the season that this OL could be a potential problem. We knew there was a small margin of error for the running game. I think they'll find a back this week who can help them with blitz pickup, which was horrible and you know the coaches hate that. And they'll find a good pass catching option on third down. It just looks to me that on offense Eli and the passing game will have to carry them, because I don't think they can fix the run game problems.
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
We have two really exciting games tonight. A lot of people probably aren't as excited about Houston at San Diego, but I'm anxious to see if the Texans are ready to become one of the elite teams that we've expected them to be. And I think the Philly-Washington game has more storylines than any game in Week 1. It will be fascinating to watch.
Gary Horton (4:32 PM)
One other thing I wanted to comment on was that everybody has talked so much about the read-option and how effective it is. But I don't think people realize how good these guys are coming into the league as passers. Yesterday, Kaepernick and Russell didn't run the read-option as much and both had huge days throwing the ball. That is an exciting development as you look at the future of these guys.