Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" -- and Insider -- 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!
Buzzmaster (4:01 PM)
Gary is here!
Hi Gary! Do you think the Chargers are close to becoming a challenger next season? If not, what do you think they need to concentrate on in order to do so?
Gary Horton (4:03 PM)
I think they've done an excellent job of recognizing their weaknesses and changing some things. For example, they've gone to a shorter passing game, to protect Rivers and cover up an offensive line that used to be really bad in seven step drops in pass protection. I think they'll be fine on offense, but I worry about them a little on defense. I'm not still sold on their pass rush. When that's not good, it exposes their secondary. But this is a very smart team and I think they'll be competitive each week. But it's not a much tougher division with Denver and KC.
Justin (Johnson City, TN)
What are the odds that Sanders matches Decker's 2013 output for the Broncos next year? Receivers playing with P Manning have a habit of being very productive.
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
You're exactly right. This system, and especially Manning, lends itself to great receiver numbers. It's very precise. If a guy is smart and can master the sight adjustment that Peyton demands, he is going to catch a lot of passes. Peyton sees everybody. It's just a great system. I would be surprised if Eric Decker has the year that people expect now that he's playing for the Jets. In my mind, taking less money and continuing to play with Peyton, certainly seemed like a smart thing.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Do the Packers have enough on defense to challenge the big boys in the NFC?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
I think they're always struggling to have good enough personnel on defense. Offensively, they're going to be able to play with anybody. I watch their secondary and it's not great. Their pass rush isn't good enough. They continue to be forced to play exotic schemes to cover their weaknesses. But, having said that, this is not as strong a division as it has been in the past. I think they go into this season probably as the favorite. Although, it will be fun to watch them and Chicago offensively, with both defenses being vulnerable, we may see a division where the offenses carry the defenses to win games.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
True or False, the Redskins offense will finish in the Top 10 with a healthy RGIII and the addition of DeSean Jackson/
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think the top 10 may be a little lofty, but I think they'll be much improved. It comes down to the running game, being just as important. That sets up everything else, like play action. And injuries are always a risk, but RG III needs to run the read option, at least enough to make defenses respect it and open up a lot of other things. I think Jay Gruden will really do a good job of making him more fundamentally sound. This is another one of those teams that will have to score a lot of points. I am not sure their defense can stop many teams.
Does Dallas really need to add to the OLine? Wasn't their line on of the best last year?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
Their line played fairly well last year. I don't think they were elite, but I think they're fairly solid. Their problem was bailing on the run game too early in games. They also have a QB in Tony Romo who is mobile and he makes an OL look better with his scrambling. Their concentration needs to be on defense.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Gary - because the drafting of QB's seems to be so hit and miss year in and year out doesn't it make sense for even the most QB needy of teams to draft one in the mid rounds unless there is a Luck/RG3/Newton available?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I think there is a reason that QBs get drafted in the middle rounds -- teams don't think that QB is that good. Occasionally you can hit on one, like Brady, but in all honesty, teams misevaluated Brady. In today's NFL, it's almost impossible to win if you don't have an elite guy. If a team really likes a guy in the 2-3 round, like Seattle did with Wilson and you have other pressing needs, you can make the move. Remember, Seattle did not have a glaring at QB at the time, they already had Matt Flynn. They could gamble a little bit. The teams at the top of the first round this year do not have that luxury.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary - It seems that the Giants and Raiders have improved during the off season filling some needs and adding depth to their roster. Do you think the Giants did enough to get back to the playoffs and the Raiders might get anywhere from 7 to 9 wins? Who else do you feel helped themselves this off season?
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
I think both teams will be challenged to do what you hope they can. I like the fact that they've been active in the offseason and filled some holes and solidified their rosters. But I don't see enough dramatic upgrades to get the feeling that they'll all of a sudden turn it around. With the Giants, it's all about Eli Manning. He has to get back to more consistency and better fundamentals.
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
As for the Raiders, this is a roster that still needs a ton of help. They just don't have enough play makers. I think they'll be better than a year ago, but that's a tough division. I would suspect 5-6 wins is what we can expect.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - does John Idzik's cautious, measured approach to free agency give the Jets a better chance for sustained success versus a more aggressive approach (money will now be available to sign their own young, core players long term if desired)?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
That's a hard question to answer because every guy has their own style. I know a lot of people are frustrated because the Jets don't seem to pull the trigger quickly right now. Their cautious and time will only tell if they're right or not. It's hard for coaches, because they're aggressive by nature and want to win now. But the front office is looking long term. It's almost a wait and see attitude.
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
But they are a pretty deliberate team right now, with their decision making.
Do you think the colts can challenge new england and denver?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
I think they're getting closer. They certainly have the QB. I believe in their passing game, with everybody healthy. It will be outstanding. I look for a bounce back year for Trent Richardson. I think the big difference will be on defense. They tried to change their philosophy over the last couple of years, by getting bigger and playing different schemes on the back end. They're just now getting the personnel they want for those changes. If they can fully get it, they have a chance.
Jeff M. Oakland, Ca [via mobile]
Do you think it's best if the Raiders trade back from the 5th spot to acquire more draft picks?
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
That's always a possibility. You are right, they need a lot of help. But I think the key is probably if they have a QB in mind that falls to the 5th spot. Matt Schaub gives them a little flexibility and maybe look at a QB in the second round instead. But he's not a long term answer. If they see a QB they love, they might take him with the fifth pick. For any other position, I would probably trade down and try to acquire extra picks.
Mark (Miami, FL)
Does Joe Philbin need to lead the Dolphins to the postseason to keep his job?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I'm not sure he has to get to the playoffs, but they have to play hard and smart and together. Avoid any controversy. I think the pressure that he is under is mostly related to their off the field problems, which did impact their play at times. But this is a pretty good football team. If they can avoid that controversy, they can be competitive on a weekly basis.
If you had to pick a team now to win it all next year; who would it be?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I would probably look at a repeat of this year -- Denver and Seattle. I don't think the Seahawks are going away. They are young, deep and confident. I think Denver has actually improved their roster in the offseason and I think they are poised for a big run again. I don't see any other teams, including the Patriots that I think you would favor, although someone will emerge and surprise us.
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Bigger offseason gaffe, the Saints letting go of Sproles, or Philly releasing DeSean Jackson?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I think the Saints letting Sproles go. I thought he was a dynamic player that was always a huge matchup problem for defenses. I think Drew Brees really trusted him. I believe he'll have a huge impact in Philadelphia. As good as DeSean Jackson is, I think the Eagles had enough information to make them uncomfortable, or at least willing to part ways with him. And, a little bit like the Denver offense, this might be a system where you can plug in a guy and get similar production.
do you think Bears offense can sustain success?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I think they can be better than a year ago. I have watched them on film this offseason and they are tremendous. They have great playmakers at every position. They have an OL that's playing better than we thought. All of the players are buying in. I look at Jeffery and Marshall and they are nightmare matchups and almost impossible to stop one on one. They also have a pass catching TE. They have an outstanding run game. An outlet passing game. I think they will be really good for a long time. Their problems right now are on defense, not offense.
Buzzmaster (4:32 PM)
Thanks for chatting Gary!