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!
Buzzmaster (4:02 PM)
Gary is here!
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I saw some interesting trends on Sunday. It seems like we've never seen so many pass catching TEs. Nearly every game that we watched, TEs were catching big passes, a lot of times down the seams. These guys are nightmare matchups. We are also seeing more screen passes than I can ever remember. A lot of offenses are actually using them as an extension for the run game. For these young QBs, they're safe, low-risk plays.
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
Another observation I had is I've never seen so many QBs, a lot of them veterans, make bad decisions at key times. Guys that no better are throwing into coverages. As they're getting sacked, they throw the ball up for grabs for turnovers. These guys are trying to do too much, instead of throwing the ball away. Those are some of the things I saw yesterday.
Are the 49ers doomed if Alex Smith misses more games?
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
No. Colin Kaepernick is a great athlete. He's going to make some plays with his feet. I don't think he was very accurate with his passes on Sunday, but the coaches will dial back the offense if he plays for any length of time, with a lot of short passes, screen plays, a strong run game and let him run some wild cat type packages. In addition to playing good defense. I think they're one of the few teams that are equipped to withstand some missed time by their QB.
That Bears-Texans game was pretty sloppy last night. Due to the weather, in addition to the Bears losing Cutler, can we really take anything away from that game?
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
I don't think you can take a lot away from it, because the conditions were so bad. Although the one thing that did impress me was the fact that Houston played well in a physical, sloppy game like this, where you would have expected the Bears to have a clear advantage. If you're a Texans fan, you walk away from this thrilled that your team is versatile enough to play in all conditions. You'd think that would bode well when we get to January.
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
As Tom Jackson always says, this team has a portable game plan, which means they can travel anywhere.
Can the Patriots defense be fixed or are we in for a nail biter every week? The D has made Sachez and Fitzpatrick look like Rogers and Manning!
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think this is going to be a problem every year. They're not good in coverages, although we'll see if Talib can improve that. Unless they have a better pass rush, which could be a way to improve, the back end will continue to suffer and they'll be in a lot of shootouts. The best way to make this secondary look better is for QBs to be forced to get the ball out quicker. When that doesn't happen, I think they're in trouble. They just don't have good enough personnel to dominate on that side of the ball.
Gary, people seem to be criticizing the Bears today because they couldn't win last night. Well, they lost Jay Cutler and the weather was horrible. And let's not forget that they held a good offensive team to 13 points. Sure it was ugly, but I don't think we all should jump off the Bears bandwagon now, do you?
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
No, I totally agree with you. This was a heavyweight fight between two physical teams in bad conditions. We didn't see the best from either one of them. This is a very good Houston defense. Even without Cutler, Chicago was able to stay in this game and could have won it. There is certainly a lot to like with the Bears. The only thing that continues to trouble me is the OL. Pass protection issues will continue to be a problem all year long. Cutler with Brandon Marshall and his ability to throw him the deep ball, I wonder how many times he can go to the 7-step drop and continue to get hit. But when you play defense the way they do, you'll be in every game.
Gary, with the Giants laying an egg again and the Niners looking flat against a team they should have rolled, are the Packers quietly the team to beat in the NFC again? Their schedule gives them a sizable advantage over the Bears in regards to the NFC North title and AR is hitting on all cylinders again.
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I don't think we know that yet, because they have so many injury problems. If Green Bay gets healthy, I think they're absolutely an elite team. But keep in mind they can not run the football. That allows the defenses to sit back in coverages and take away a lot of Rodgers passing ability. I think the Giants and 49ers will solve their problems and come out of this mini-funk, but I don't think either one of them will run away from their division.
Can Drew Brees and that offense keep overcoming the Saints horrific defense and make a playoff push?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I think you're stating it perfectly. When this offense is going well, they can compete with anybody, because they can outscore them. They don't need to be great on defense, they just need to be average and make some stops here and there. But this is a dangerous team even though they're in a deep hole. Although, I think there should be a concern about what if Brees has a day where he's not perfect? Then that defense is exposed, although I did like the run game better yesterday, which should make all Saints fans more optimistic. I don't know if there's a team in the NFL that has to ask as much of their QB every week for the rest of the season.
Ryan (Richmond, VA)
Is firing Andy Reid reallly the right answer for the Eagles? Yes the bar has raised this year considering the talent that they had but i'm not convinced there really is anyone better plus Reid is outstanding at developing Quarterbacks.
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
A lot of people have suggested that they should fire him now, which I think is the wrong move. I love Andy Reid. I think he's a great coach. He'd be unemployed for about a day if they let him go. However, I do think there's some truth to the adage that if you're in a place for a long time that your message can get stale. I know they all love Andy, but sometimes changing things up is good. For some reason this coaching staff hasn't been able to get the maximum out of the players. This is an underachieving group.
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
In the end, I think Andy Reid is one of the best coaches and most honorable guys this league has ever seen.
Troy(Baltimore,Md) [via mobile]
Why do the Baltimore Ravens get such an underrated reputation ? / When will this team get the respect of the NFL, when we win the AFC title and go on to win the Super Bowl,just a little sour looking at highlights of Sunday's games and not seeing anything reputable about the Ravens.
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
I think a lot of people have the feeling that their age and injuries on defense are really a problem that they can't fix. I'll be honest, I thought they were a little bit of a descending team a couple of weeks ago. I thought the only chance they had to be playoff competitive was to be great on offense. But having watched them yesterday, they played well enough on offense. They have good weapons on offense. They need to stay healthy. I don't think they can afford a bad game against an elite team. It will be interesting to see how their two games against Pittsburgh play out. After tonight, I think they have two games against Pittsburgh in three weeks.
Are you starting to believe in Russell Wilson yet, or do you still have some doubts?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
No, I do believe in him, but I think he has to be used properly, much like Andrew Luck, he's a guy coaches say never repeats a mistake. He's a fast learner. He makes adjustments. I think he knows his limitations. His size will always be an issue, but like other short QBs, he's developed a knack for moving around the pocket and finding passing windows. I like how he moves defenses with his eyes and makes good decisions. But like all rookies he'll have some bumps in the road at times and won't be perfect every week. But he has the benefit of a good defense and strong running game. I think Seattle may be the most dangerous/underrated team.
Gary, can tampa bay be a scary team down the stretch, for teams makin a playoff run........
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
Absolutely. They can. The play of their QB has been tremendous in the last 3-4 weeks. We always knew Josh Freeman threw a nice deep ball, but that has really been a positive factor. Vincent Jackson at WR really gives them a chance to go vertical. They've also found a run game with Doug Martin, which sets up playaction, forcing Freeman to not have to make every play. If their defense will play middle of the road football and create some turnovers, this is a dangerous team. What really impresses me, when they lost both of the OGs to injury, I thought they were done and that hasn't been the case. This is a young team with players that have really bought into Greg Schiano's program. I believe in what they're doing.
What do you think of the Saint-Falcons game? Do you think the Saints will make the playoffs?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I think they're both elite teams. It could have gone either way. I love watching these two QBs play. They can make any defense look bad. We're going to see Atlanta in the playoffs. And I think there's a really good chance that New Orleans could get there. If I'm a Falcons fan, I won't get overly concerned that they lost to New Orleans. That is a tough place to play against a very desperate team that had to win.
Jason Paul (Pittsburgh,PA)
Are the steelers at 5-3 a playoff contender in your mind or will they fall short of making the playoffs and how far do you think they would go if they made it?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I think they're an absolute contender, especially if they get healthy on defense. They're obviously not as young as they used to be, but what I like what they've done the last few weeks is they're back to running the football. They have a chance to have three healthy backs as we make the stretch run to the playoffs. If they can pound the ball on the ground, especially in bad weather, it controls the clock, keeps the defense off the field. We know that this short dink and dunk passing game will continue to be successful and it will keep Ben healthy because he doesn't take a lot of hits. There is everything to like about this Steelers team. I think they're right in the thick of the AFC Super Bowl talk.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
Tonight's KC-Pittsburgh matchup doesn't have a huge glamour look to it, but I think it could have a good gauge of where Pittsburgh is right now. They should continue to play as well as they have the last few weeks. This is a game they should win comfortably. They are so well coached, I would be surprised if they didn't. But it's also the last time that KC has a chance to be on a national stage, so I would hope that we'd get their best shot. This game may be more fun than we might think.