We've got Gary!
Every team has issues, every team has holes. Seems everyone picks in the NFC is S.F. or Seattle. I say the team in the weeds to watch is G.B. Your thoughts?
I think Seattle and San Francisco are sexy picks because they have the best depth. They look like two teams that can really survive injuries. There are no major weaknesses that they have to overcome. Green Bay can be terrific, as I watch them on film, but they are not without faults. They are not as deep at WR as they've been in the past. We think they fixed their running game in the draft, but that's not proven yet. They have a lot of young players on defense that are still learning. Aaron Rodgers gives them a chance to win every week. If the run game comes along, they will be a tough team to beat. But I think right now, both of the west coast teams are probably a little more complete.
what do you study this time of the year?
I'm watching a lot of film on trends that interst me. For example, I'm writing up for ESPN.com all of the teams with new coaches. That means a change in philosophy and scheme and I find that very intersting. In the last month, I've gone through all 32 teams and written them up. I've also made some observations on film. I'm also updating offensive and defensive philosophies that I wrote up before the draft. As you watch teams evolve in mini camps, you can change your minds on some of those things as new coaches learn their personnel. There's always a lot to do, but this is the time of year to do it.
You think Eli has a bounce-back season?
That's a good question, because I think it depends on the weapons around him. They could have a very good passing game. But I look at them as a team that can't afford many injuries on offense. I think the window is closing on their OL. Depth at WR is a question mark. I'm not quite sure how good their run game can be. Eli is one of those QBs that will always give them a chance. But I think the Giants are going to have to fight for everything they get in 2013.
Is Aaron Hernandez done regardless of what happens legally?
The easy answer would probably be to assume that his playing days are over, no matter what the charges, if any, are. But it's not fair to Hernandez to make that type of statement until things play out. But it certainly doesn't look good for him and the Patriots. How would you like to be Tom Brady or Bill Belichick and know that you might be without both TEs at the beginning of the season? One of them you don't know what kind of health he'll have and the other, you don't know when and if he'll play. For an elite team, that's a lot of instability leading into training camp. Hopefully we'll know the entire story around Hernandez sooner rather than later. But at the very least it's very sad.
Do you think J.J. Watt will have a repeat mega Watt year again? And if so does he have the ability to be the next Reggie white?
I think the answer is yes on all counts. We know he has the athletic skills. But what I love about him is his high character and unbelieveable motor. Those are the skills that lead to greatness. He's also playing on a very good defense, which makes it difficult to double team him. They are really good at moving him around to get one on one matchups. I don't know if I've ever seen a guy, maybe you're right that Reggie White is a good comparison, that doesn't get blocked. He fights to the whistle. I can't remember the number of plays I saw last year when I thought he was out of the play and blocked and he still makes the play. I think he'll be doing it for a long time.
Hi Gary - how beneficial is it for the defense of a team (Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks for instance) to have tio practice against their offense? Does it help prepare them for the other teams that have fast paced, explosive offensives?
Well, sure, of course it does. One of the big advantages of a read option set of plays is defenses don't see them every week, so it really forces them to get practice time against it. A team like San Francisco is so familiar, it doesn't change their practice when they are practicing for a team that plays the read option.
Gary, I'm a huge Lions fan. Born and raised. In your honest opinion, how are they looking now after the free agents and draft pics? Can I be hopeful in picking some players for this years fantasy leagues?
I think they're going to be better. They just have to play with more discipline and consistency. I think Reggie Bush will be a huge help. He gives them another big play guy other than CJ. They can actually have a decent run attack, which has been missing for the last 2-3 years when they've had to use the short passing game as an extension of the run game. I think offensively they'll be good. On defense, I'm looking for their DL to take over like we expect them to. Their back 7 are OK, but they'd be a lot better if the guys up front were winning their battles. They have the talent to get it done, but we just don't see it on a weekly basis. I think the front four can set the trend either positive or negative.
This looks like a very competitive division to me and I think all four teams will probably fight to win the division right up to the end of the season.
On paper - This is going to be a long season for the Jets fans. Who are some players on the current roster that we can be optimistic about for the future? Maybe Mo Wilkerson...anyone else?
When I watch them on film, I am shocked at how the talent on this roster has diminished. They just don't have very any difference makers. I don't know where the big plays will come from. One guy I can talk about is Wilkerson. He looks like a star in the making. He looks to be terrific, but will anybody know, because the talent around him is so bad. I don't know if you can look anywhere on this roster at any position and feel good about it.
Do you like the Giants' chances of keeping Cruz in the long term?
I think the Giants are in a tough spot now, because if both Cruz and Nicks are healthy and play well in 2013, it's going to make it very difficult to pay them both after this season. That's a lot of money for one position. Obviously, they would have liked to have gotten Cruz done before this season so then a year from now they can just concentrate on Nicks. But if both guys get to free agency, I think there is a good chance that they'll pay one and the other will be gone. As I look at Cruz, I think he's really a good WR, but he's also a guy who's at his best in the slot. I don't know that commands the type of money that he and his camp probably thinks he's worth.
How do you expect the NFL East standings to play out at the end of the season?
I don't see an elite team in this division. I would probably look at the Giants and Cowboys as maybe the teams to beat, because we know the most about them. I think Washington will take a step back, even if RGIII is healthy -- not a major step. Philadelphia is a team to watch. They could either struggle in Chip Kelly's first year to learn the system, or they could surprise us all and go ahead of everybody. Certainly the talent level is there. I think they're a fascinating team to watch. My guess is this division will beat each other up every week. It will be very competitive. I only see one team from the NFC East going to the playoffs.
Who are the top 5 defenses and offenses you predict this season based on what you see so far in camps
The first thing you do is look out west to Seattle and San Francisco. They're both dynamic on both sides of the ball and in my opinion the best in the league. For other teams, I love Denver on offense. I think Cincinnati will be dramatically improved. I like Atlanta, Green Bay and Houston and New England and New Orleans. On defense, I really like Houston, the two west coast teams we already talked about. I don't know if we have that many elite defenses. As I look at a lot of these teams, a lot of them have good components, but they're not elite.
With all the trouble with the Patriot's TE's will we see Tebow step into a Hernandez role?
I have not heard anything. It would really surprise me if he had a significant role, no matter what happens to their current tight ends. I think he could be an interesting goal line and redzone option at TE. But I don't think this coaching staff is going to spend any time really creating a package for him. I believe if he makes the team, it will be a red shirt year and let him learn better mechanics and the position and just get better. I would be surprised if he had a big role in this offense. I think the TE to keep an eye on is Jake Ballard.
We've talked for the last two weeks about how this is a month that always makes coaches very nervous, because players are gone until training camp and they can't control them. It seems like that's when guys get into trouble. Obviously, that has proven true in the last week. It will always confuse me as to why players with so much at stake and so much success on and off the field, take chances. But I guess that's human nature.