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!
Do you think Geno Smith is turning a corner?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think he's making probably more improvement than I thought. But let's keep in mind, he does not have a great supporting cast around him. But, to the Jets credit, they are really trying to run the football to create some balance. I like the way the game seems to be slowing down for Smith. Reading defenses, identifying matchups. The game seems to be getting easier for him each week. Get him some good weapons and he might turn into a good player.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - if Cam Newton can continue to play the type of game he played yesterday combined with the Panthers unheralded D - does Carolina have a chance to be in the playoff conversation come December?
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
I have felt for a long time that Carolina is a good football team. I love their defense, especially their front 7, who can dominate a game. They have enough weapons on offense to always be explosive. It looks to me like they're letting Cam be Cam more now and take chances, make plays with his feet. It may sound a little silly, but this team looks like they're having fun for the first time in a long time, instead of pressing and always underachieving. If their mindset is right, they can be competitive with anybody on any given Sunday.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary, It seems like tonight's Vikings (1-4) - Giants (0-6) looks meaningless but does Minnesota have an outside chance of making the playoffs and do the Giants try for an 8-8 record & figure out who'll be around in 2014?
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
I don't think the Giants have any chance right now, because I don't know where the positive signs come from. We just don't see any flashes, so what would lead you to believe that you could all of a sudden turn it around. Minnesota, in my mind, has a small chance to recover. They do have AP and if they catch lightning in a bottle with Josh Freeman, they could look like a different football team. We oculd learna lot more after tonight when we see Freeman on this big stage. I'm not looking for a lot, but this is a team that needs a spark.
So RG3 looks back. Can the Skins make a move?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think they can, because they were late bloomers a year ago. He looks more comfortable each week running the football, and we know when he stretches the field, this is a different offense. They'll probably have to cover up for a bad defense the entire season. But in this watered down NFC East, why can't they get back in it? This looks like a division that could be won with an 8-8 record.
Garrett f (grand rapids)
Do the cowboys have a shot for the playoffs this year?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I live on an eternal roller coaster with the Cowboys. I have not liked their defense the entire year. I think that will be their Achilles heel. This offense can look explosive. They can put up a lot of points. I think they will probably win this division by simply outscoring people. I think a lack of defense could doom them early in the playoffs. I don't see any team in the NFC East making a deep postseason run.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Will the huge injuries at all three levels of the Patriot defense prevent New England from making the Super Bowl? Or is there lack of production at WR a bigger issue?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I think right now, it's the injury issue. They played without their top three defensive players at all three levels on Sunday. They have virtually no depth, which is huge to Bill Belichick, because of now much he likes to mix and match on defense. I think Tom Brady will continue to develop his WRs. They'll have good weeks and bad weeks. But there are only so many injuries that you can take. This is a team, if they continue to win, it will be because of coaching and character, not depth. I thought the return of Gronk really looked like it could be significant down the line. It seems to me that the Jets had no answer for him in coverage.
How bad is the Broncos defense? They can't possibly hope to contend when they give up so many big plays.
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
It has to be a real concern, but there is a little bit of hope for the future. Von Miller looked virtually non-existent on Monday night. But, if he gets better, and they develop a pass rush, that will protect the backend of the defense, who can't cover if QBs have all day to throw. I also think they're probably a victim of their own success. Their defense knows that they can score on almost every possession, so maybe there is not the same sense of urgecy. They can get better, but in my mind, how far Denver goes will be how many high scoring games they can win.
Do you think Josh Freeman has long-term potential with the Vikings? Is he being used merely as a band-aid to a bad season start or because coach Frazier is on the hot seat?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I suppose that I do, because I haven't seen anything from him to say that he can't play. Unlike some other guys who are struggling, he has had some success and has put up some numbers. It would be surprising to see him fall on his face at this age.
HP (St Louis)
With bears losing Cutler and Briggs, what are their chances for making the playoffs?
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
Those are obviously the Bears' leaders on both sides of the ball. I'm concernced that Cutler will come back slower than some people anticipate. I think they're a good enough team to stay in the race and at least be competitive in the final month of the season, and Cutler should be back to 100% and Briggs should be back. Everyone is dealing with injuries now. Luckily, we don't have a lot of runaway divisions.
Gary, how are you viewing the Packers these days? Granted the injuries are racking up with key players (godspeed to Finley!!), they seem to have known going in that simply outscoring teams wouldn't result in another Lombardi Trophy. Rodgers + running game defensive mindset = a very tough out in January, right? Assuming the injuries don't continue. Thanks.
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
I don't think they're the Packers team we've seen in the past, especially with their inability to spread the field in the passing game, because of those injuries. However, I like the adjustment they have made to running the football. Rodgers still has enough that he can keep this passing game legit. I'm really worried about how serious Finley's injury is, because I think he's a real safety blanket for this offense. But you're right, the run game and defense are going to have to really step up.
Despite the fact they are 7-0, have a suffocating defense (probably best D in the league they stuff the run and defend the pass well), have a terrific rushing attack, and don't make mistakes and beat themselves, and have great coaching from the head coaching up why are people still not regarding the Chiefs very high? This team has the looks of a team that has the potential to go far in January and yet gets so little respect around the league.
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
Because I think you perfectly described their makeup, which will win you a lot of games in this league, but when I look at them, I would be very concerned that if they were forced to get into any game that's high scoring and explosive, they would be in real trouble. If they hit a hot scoring team, especially throwing, they are not equipped to match a team like that, possession for possession. They won't be able to control the flow of the game and they will have to alter their style which is totally out of character.
Jets and pats split their season series, with each team winning by 3 at home. fair to call the two teams even? if the jets ever figure out how to play consistently, i actually think their roster is stronger.
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
Actually, I don't think they're close to being even, in terms of talent. But what I continue to be surprised about every year is how well Rex Ryan coaches against Bill Belichick. He just seems to put together a good defensive gameplan that shows good results. If you were evaluating Ryan on how good a defensive coach he is, you would probably look to how he played the Patriots.
Giants or Vikes tonight and why?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
Part of me thinks that the Vikings will be ridiculous in terms of rushing attempts to make this an AP game that could produce some record numbers. But, on the other hand, I could see Eli passing on almost every down, with almost no run game, and making it look like a backyard 7-on-7 game. Neither team has anything to lose, so I think it will be interesting. It might be a little more entertaining than we think.
I think the Jets have been very lucky, but even so, isn't their d line great. Richardson was panned by many as a reach pick. How do you evaluate him?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I think they are one of the best units in the NFL right now that a lot of people don't konw about. The Jets have built their defense around them. I really liked them a year ago, but they've gotten even better. The Jets can have a pretty good defense for a long time, if they build around this front.
Buzzmaster (4:29 PM)
Thanks for chatting Gary!