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, what's your take on the Jets playing Mark Sanchez late in a presesaon game?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
I thought it was really a question, because of the way Geno Smith played the first three quarters. It looked to me that clearly Geno was not ready to start in Week 1. If that was the opinion of the coaches, then I think you have to go into a mode of "we have to protect Sanchez." Good or bad, we know what Sanchez is. He's not going to show us anything in the fourth quarter that we haven't seen. After Smith struggled, then the health of Sanchez in Week 1 became more important. But the coaches may have not seen it that way. You can get hurt at any time, though. There can be breakdowns at any time in the preseason. I know it's a story in New York, but maybe that's all it is.
Patriots got crushed last week, and Tebow still didn't play. Does he get cut this week?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I don't think so. I think that the Patriots probably look at Tebow as a potential red-shirt type guy, who probably would not be expected to play if he makes the final roster. Keep in mind, his value to this team, initially, could be his ability to run a read-option type offense in practice and simulate some of the good running QBs that they'll see. I think these coaches see enough of Tebow in practice to make up their mind on what to do with him. While it wasn't a good sign he didn't play, I wouldn't take it as a totally negative sign. Not only do they need to get Ryan Mallett a lot of snaps, you also want other teams to have good film on him, in case they offer the Patriots something significant in a trade.
Why are so many sleeping on the Texans?
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I don't think anybody is sleeping on the Texans. I think they're a really good team, but we're all waiting for them to take the next step. I think they disappointed us a little bit in the fact that we've expected more out of them in the last year or two, but I think they're headed for a terrific season. Their defense will be dominant and with the addition of rookie Hopkins at WR, I think this passing game will be much better. Their ultimate success will come down to the consistency of Matt Schaub and the improvement of play on the right side of their OL. Those are the two positive things they need to see. And, it would be nice to see a healthy Ed Reed.
Cavedweller here, when a team has a below aveage QB how much do you see that hurting the running game - eg Jets, Bills, Cleveland Jacksonville, Oakland
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
It tremendously hurts their running game. When a defense doesn't respect your QB, they can load up in the box with 7 and 8 defenders close to the line of scrimmage and play single man to man coverages behind it, without a lot of worry that a subpar QB will hurt them. Your good NFL QBs are very effective in spread offense looks that forces a defense into more sub packages. When they see that, that opens up the run game against softer defenses.
Did the Ravens defense just get significantly better after the purge of players?
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
Initially, I certainly didn't think so and thought they'd take a step back. I actually changed my opinion. I think they'll be pretty good on defense this year. The addition of Smith from Jacksonville was a quiet move that really solidified their LB corps. They have three pass rushers. They have nice size up front. I really like their corners and I think their safeties will come around. Everybody talked about this team having a Super Bowl hangover, but there are so many new faces in Baltimore, you don't have players looking back to last year. They're starting with a fresh plate and that serves them well.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Gary - what are your thoughts onh how New Orleans has looked so far this preseason - do they have the potential to reclaim the AFC South?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I think they will be excellent on offense again. Drew Brees will be great in the passing offense. I think they'll look for more offensive balance. I also think the screen game will be very big for this offense. I worry about the defense a little bit, because they are a work in progress. Because this offense scores so quickly, Rob Ryan's defense will see a lot of teams throwing against them.
how far do you see the Bengals going this season? will they finally win that all elusive playoff game?
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
I think they're probably the ultimate sleeper team right now in the NFL. They seem to have answered every one of their question marks. On defense, they have one of the best defensive rotations in the NFL. On offense, they should have good variety in the running game. I love their two rookies RB Gio Bernard and TE Tyler Eifert. The ultimate success of this football team will be their ability to develop a second WR to AJ Green. The biggest pressure is on Andy Dalton to take his game to the next level. If he doesn't improve, they're a good team that probably won't go very far in January. There are no excuses for the Bengals this year.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, what's your opinion on the Bills' decision to start Jeff Tuel in the Bills' regular-season opener against the Patriots?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I don't think they really have a choice right now. They obviously can't use Kevin Kolb and it certainly seems that EJ Manuel is out. It looks like they'll have to get Tuel all of the snaps come Thursday and hope that they can get through a week or two until Manuel is ready. They did sign Leinart, but there is no way he can get ready to start in a couple of weeks. A Tuel is better than a less than prepared Leinart.
Do you expect Sanchez to start in the Jets' opener?
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
If he's healthy enough, I think he will. I saw enough negative plays from Geno Smith against the Giants to feel like he just wasn't ready for the pace of a Week 1 game. Although it's not all of his fault, because he lacks weapons around him, I think starting Sanchez and hope you can win by running the ball and playing good defense, while not turning the ball over on offense is the only chance this team has of winning.
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
I know there are good teams and bad teams every year in the NFL, but I don't know the last time I saw three teams like the Jets, Jacksonville and Oakland that were so far down and look to me in Week 1 that they don't have a great chance to be competitive. I just don't know what you can point to on any of those three teams that can excite you and give you optimism. I certainly hope I'm wrong.
What have you seen from Marc Trestman's offense? Do you think it will work?
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think if Jay Cutler will embrace it, it has a chance to be very good. Trestman understands that the key to this offense is keeping his QB upright. That's why we will see a shorter passing game, with less seven step drops. They will get the ball a lot more to their RBs and TEs in the passing game. I think it can be very effective.
How do you think the chiefs will do this year with Andy Reid, Alex Smith, and an improved defense?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
I have thought from the beginning of training camp that the Chiefs would be the most improved team in the NFL and will be reflected in their record. There is a lot to like. You have a very strong running game. You have an improved OL. There are Pro Bowl players on defense. You have a coach that knows how to win. I think they're the second best team in the AFC West, behind Denver. I think Alex Smith avoids the one thing that has been their downfall the last couple of years: turning the ball over and making silly mistakes. He's a very efficient QB. If he stays that way, this is going to be a football team that nobody wants to play.
I know it's the preseason and early, but did you see K. Long and Mills playing very well on the Bears right side?
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
I think this line is shaping up better than I thought it would. I like the fact that they're moving a lot of guys around to try and get five guys that they're really comfortable with. I know that OC Kromer likes to build a line blocking from the inside out. If they succeed at that, and Cutler is protected from the inside rush, it makes them a lot better. The biggest thing to remember is that this coaching staff won't ask them to block for a lot of seven step drops and long developing pass plays. That can be a OL's best friend in pass protection.
Gary Horton (4:33 PM)
For the most part, what we see today is probably what we will see in Week 1. Most of these teams just want to get through Week 4 without injuries. We're not going to learn anything new. Although, I think there are several coaches that are wrestling with the idea this week of maybe playing their starters some, because they are so unhappy with what they have seen so far and they don't want to go into Week 1 on such a negative note. At the end of the day, I think most of them will probably avoid putting their starters in, but it looks to me like it's at least a part of the thought process than it usually is.
Buzzmaster (4:33 PM)
Thanks for chatting Gary!