Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton stops in to talk about the upcoming NFL season and other news from around the league.
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 (4:00 PM)
We're getting Gary right now!
Buzzmaster (4:01 PM)
Gary will be joining us as he makes his annual drive out to Bristol from San Diego for the NFL season!
Gary Horton (4:03 PM)
This becomes the most important week in training camp, leading up to the third game. This is when the starters will play a lot. This is when the final roster spots will probably be determined, because Week 4 is almost a throw away week, simply trying to keep everyone healthy. So, you can bet there are a lot of nervous guys right now on these rosters, knowing how important this week's practices and games are.
What did you see from Alex Smith last night? Enough to be comfortable saying he will be adequate enough to help the Niners make the playoffs??
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I think like a lot of QB's he has not had a great preseason, but I think he has quality weapons. They're so committed to running the ball with Frank Gore, that it will take some pressure off of Smith and give him some one-on-one opportunities on the outside. He's a solid guy. He's not flashy, but I really like the 49ers coaches and I don't think they'll ask him to do too much.
Kyle Orton looked good Saturday night with no running game. Could he end up being a long term answer in Denver or is it still Tebow in 2012 regardless of Orton's play?
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
Well, I think they're more committed to Tebow in the future than a lot of people realize. They really want him to succeed as a real QB and not just as a gimic guy. But right now, this is a team that will have to win by running the football and playing almost mistake free at QB. That gives Orton the best chance. I don't see Orton as a long term franchise guy, but I think if everything else is right, he can be a solid QB. But I really think that they hope that Tebow is the future.
Trevor (Portland, OR)
We talk about the Cowboys, Vikings, and Saints being Super Bowl Contenders in the NFC but what other teams could be playing in Dallas in February instead of those teams?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
The Green Bay Packers are loaded and are ready to make a real statement. I think you still have to look at the Eagles and the Giants. And I think Atlanta could be a little of a sleeper team, who could play maybe better than we think. But to not mention the Packers in the elite group is a mistake. I've watched them on film, and they don't have a lot of weaknesses. Though they do have some secondary issues, in terms of health.
How much do coaches and coordinators hold back during preseason games? Are they afraid of giving game tape?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think they hold back a significant amount. I don't think they game plan a lot because they're more concerned about individual performances. Week 3, this week, is the one week that they put some stuff in and see how guys adjust. Some times coaches get too cute and try to throw stuff in, just to throw stuff in and try to confuse the opponent. But I don't think they're spending a lot of time right now on game plans.
The 89 yard TD run aside, doesn't Matt Forte look a lot quicker than he did last season, probably due to his knee injuries? Doesn't Chester Taylor look slow?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I think the combination of Forte and Taylor is really underrated, especially in terms of their receiving skills. These two combined for over 100 catches a year ago and in Mike Martz's vertical passing game, that opens up a lot of underneath routes, dump offs and safe throws for Jay Cutler. This could be a highly productive short passing game. For Taylor to get much of the third down action, Forte could really blossom as a runner. I like the combination of these backs.
Tommy (Kansas City)
How legit can the Chiefs be this season? Is there any real reason to believe that they can at least have a winning season?
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
I don't think they're very good yet. I think they'll play hard. I think they'll be much more stable with the coaches they've added. They'll play fast and aggressive on defense, but I don't see a lot of difference makers on this roster. They're in a division with one really good team in San Diego and an improving team in Oakland. I see the Chiefs taking baby steps, maybe getting to 4-5 wins, but I just don't think they have the personnel to jump up right now. But I do like the structure they have in place for the future.
The Dolphins starting CBs looked exposed in the first two preseason games. Will Nolan's defense correct the problems or are we looking at large chunk yardage, as coach Sparano would say, again this year?
Gary Horton (4:15 PM)
That's going to be a little bit of an issue. This is a team that wants to attack the CBs and blitz some. To do that, you have to leave your CBs on an island. I'm not sure that Nolan wants to play zones and a lot of soft stuff to avoid giving up big plays, but he might have to mix things up, unless they can get a better pass rush up front that I think they have right now.
Jorge (Parts Unknown)
Once Dez Bryant is healthy, what do you expect from him in his rookie year? And for 2nd year receivers Michael Crabtree and Hakeem Nicks, what do you think they are capable of this year?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I've talked to coaches that have watched him in the summer before he got hurt and they think he is a special guy. I think he's going to put up big numbers. He's on an offense that can spread the ball around. It has so many targets and weapons that it becomes almost impossible to double team him. That makes him a big physical guy and single coverage situations with a QB that wants to get him the ball. I think if he stays healthy, we can likely be looking at the rookie of the year.
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
As for the second year guys, coaches will tell you that young players make their biggest jump in the offseason between Year 1 and Year 2. They now know what to expect. They've had a full season of playbooks and playing. Now, at WR, they can let their natural skills take over instead of thinking about every play instead of cutting loose. Those two guys have a chance at excellent second years. Not only do they know what to do, but their coaches have a much better idea of what they can do and how to use them. You bring up an excellent question.
Is it realistic to put Chad Henne & the dolphins as a top 10 offense this season? the robot's been upgraded...
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
I'm not sure that it is, but they have a chance to be pretty good. I love Henne's big arm. He can stretch the field. Brandon Marshall will become an excellent big play weapon. We know that they can run the football. A better vertical passing game opens up the run game and prevents 8 in the box defenses. But I just haven't seen it enough on a consistent basis to be comfortable that every week they're going to put up big numbers. I think they're on their way, but I think we will have some weeks where they struggle.
Brandon (San Diego)
Who do you see as the legit favorite in the AFC? Can the Chargers finally get over the hump this year and play in the Super Bowl?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
I think the Chargers are in the same spot they are every year. They're a talented team and on paper it looks like a Super Bowl contender. I live in San Diego in the offseason, so I watch this team closely. I really like their chemistry and belief in each other this training camp. They've filled some holes that need filling. There are a lot of playmakers. But you are without your LT, Marcus McNeil. You're without your biggest play WR, Vincent Jackson. Those two losses could really hold this team back, maybe not during the regular season, but in the playoffs. That's where I worry about the Chargers. Will these losses effect them in January? They will still be an elite team, but they would be much better with those two guys on field.
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
Obviously, the Jets are also a legit team. I happen to really like the Ravens. The Colts and Patriots are usual suspects. A darkhorse to keep an eye on are the Houston Texans.
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
And maybe Cincinnati.
Is the Patriots preseason run/pass balance we are seeing going to make it to the regular season or when the games count will they be airing it out all over the field?
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I think they'll still become a passing team, because I don't think they're physical enough to run the ball with a lot of conviction. They would like to, but when we get into the regular season, they'll realize their strength is their passing game. Having said that, they're such a smart offense, they can almost make that passing game into the run game, with draw plays, screen passes. It's not ideal, but much like the Eagles, they can manufacture more plays from their backs than you might think.
Ryan (Germantown, MD)
What does Aaron Ross' plantar fasciitis mean for the Giants?
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
I think their secondary was already a concern. The problem with their defense a year ago was that they had a pass rush that underachieved and that left the secondary that couldn't cover, especially down the middle at safety. This just isn't a great matchup group, especially when offenses spread them out. They can't afford any losses that takes away their depth. The whole key to this Giants defense will be the guys up front. If they generate a huge pass rush like they did in the past, the secondary will be OK. If they don't, they will have to play softer schemes on the back end, because they won't want to expose those guys in single coverages and that will lead to a lot of throws. One of the biggest surprises of the 2009 season to me was the drop off in the pass rush pressure by the Giants. I am baffled by how bad they were.
James (New York)
C.J Spiller has looked pretty good so far this preseason, is he a guy who could be the featured player on offense? thanks!
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
He's a great player and he'll be fun to watch, but he's probably on the wrong team. In a perfect world, Spiller would be on a team where he's surrounded by a lot of good players, where he wouldn't draw a lot of attention. But with Buffalo, he might have to be more than a nickel back. As the other team, if I shut down Spiller, who else on the team can hurt me? I think he's a talented player, but the real challenge for the coaches will be how can they use him and keep him productive without getting him hurt.
Gary, awful wide receiver and quarterback play aside, were you at least impressed with the unheralded defensive side of the ball in Charlotte Saturday?
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
I think they're always going to play hard on defense. There are some injury issues, but this is a John Fox team. They get after you, they're aggressive. My problem with the Panthers is I don't know where the pass rush is coming from. I don't know who puts pressure on the QB and who will make big plays. They will play hard. It's hard for me to really like this team, even though there are some players you pull for.
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
We did this chat from the great state of Ohio. I was on my cell phone, but it was hands free. I didn't break any laws. I'm heading back to Bristol for the football season. So, next week, we'll do the chat from Connecticut.