Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
Gary Horton (3:04 PM)
I'm sure we're all excited to jump into Week 1. I thought Wednesday night's opener was a great way to get excited. I love how competitive some of these Week 1 games are, with unbelieveable storylines.
Rich (New Jersey)
What stood out the most to you in the Giants - Cowboys, Giants wide receivers dropping balls or Tony Romo having a good day against the Giants defense and your opinion of the referee's work during the game.
Gary Horton (3:06 PM)
I think Romo showed his athletic ability to avoid the rush. I thought he made some clutch plays. In the past, where he didn't come up big late, he did this time. He found a reciever no one had ever heard of in Ogletree. He was very resilient. I thought another key was the fact that the Giants pass rush, even though it bothered him, it really didn't get to him, especially off the edges. I thought going in that the Giants' DEs would dominate. They didn't. Some of it is they didn't have a great game, some of it was Romo.
Gary, a lot is being made about the replacement refs...but do you think teams and players are giving it a second thought? Replacement refs or not, they have to still go out there and execute.
Gary Horton (3:08 PM)
I thought they did a pretty decent job on Wednesday. I thought there were some missed holding penalties on WRs. It looks to me that's the biggest issue that defensive players are trying to get away with more in terms of contact down the field. I think everybody concerned was really happy that the game didn't hinge on bad calls. At the end of the night, I don't think anybody felt like that was the case. The biggest cry was for the holding call on Victor Cruz. But when you finish the game and you don't talk a lot about the refs, that's a good thing.
Do you think the NFL is excited for the season to start so they can push askide these offseason stroies?
Gary Horton (3:08 PM)
I think that's a great point. Not only for the fans and the league, but the players and coaches feel the same way. They just want to start playing football where the games are the topic and not the off the field stuff. I think we'll see that now.
How improved do you think we see the Patriots' defense this year?
Gary Horton (3:10 PM)
They have 6 new players that they've added and they're all good athletes. I think they'll be better, but I don't think they'll be elite. When it comes to personnel with the Patriots, they look for guys with varied skill sets on defense. Can you play inside and outside? Can you play zone and man to man? Can you rush? Can you drop? They did a good job of getting those guys with the skill sets which allows them to mix and match their schemes. They can confuse the offense and they can hide some of their defensive deficiencies. They don't need to be great on defense, with that offense, they just need to be average. I think they'll do that now.
What would you say the chances are that Luck beats the Bears in the opener? 20%?
Gary Horton (3:12 PM)
I think he has a chance. Brian Urlacher is not going to be 100%. That means there might be some seams opened down the middle. The one good thing about playing the Bears, even though they have a good defense is that it's not very exotic. You're going to see a lot of Cover 2 and basic schemes. For a young QB, at least it's a defense he can read and not be confused. The key for him will be his OL pass protection. Can they give him time to get rid of the ball?
Gary, everyone's talking about the replacements refs, but I think people will always talk about the refs, whether they're replacements or not, won't they?
Gary Horton (3:14 PM)
I think it becomes a bigger issue if games are decided on questionable calls or, I think everybody's biggest fear, what if some serious injury occurs because of how the game is called. I think you always run the risk of players pushing the envelope to see what's called. I think the league has taken measures to really make sure that the spot is correct and that the right penalty is called and that they avoid those stupid things that happen occasionally in the preseason.
As an NFL guy, how interesting is it to you to see a defensive guy in Belichick being an offensive guru?
Gary Horton (3:16 PM)
I worked for Bill in Cleveland and even though he has a great defensive background, he was really able to adapt to the personnel he has. He really pushed the envelope with creative schemes. His players have told me in the past that his game plans are so fun when he hands them out every Wednesday because they're so different week to week. I think he partially does it to challenge the players, so they don't get stale doing the same things. I think he really recognizes what his strengths and weaknesses are and plays to them. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that the Patriots ran the ball really effectively and they were considered a smash mouth offense. They had a legit running game. Now they don't, so they're a passing team.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear GaryCould you see the Raiders getting T.O.?
Gary Horton (3:17 PM)
I don't think so, right now, because even though they're banged up, I think this young receiving corps is much better than I thought they would be. When they get healthy, I think they'll be pretty good. I don't think T.O. adds anything. They just need to get healthy.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Gary, sinilar to the question raised by Willie of Boston, how improved do you think the Packers' defense will be this year?
Gary Horton (3:19 PM)
I think they will be very similar to the Patriots, because they also used their first 6 picks on defensive players. I think the key will be if Nick Perry can be that complementary pass rusher to Clay Matthews. That will have a trickle down effect on the entire defense. This is a unit that gave up a lot of big plays a year ago, but they also created a lot of big plays. I think an improved pass rush will help the guys on the back end. I'm a little concerned at CB with Charles Woodson moving to the inside. Because of their offense, like New England, their defense doesn't need to be great. If they're middle of the pack, that's probably enough.
Bert (St. Paul, MN)
The John Clayton commercial was _____??______.
Gary Horton (3:21 PM)
It's hilarious and probably what makes it so funny is John is such a serious guy and you would never think of him doing a commercial like this. That's what I think makes it really cool is he's not afraid to have some fun. All of the people that work with John love the commercial because it's so different than what we're used to.
How do you think Tannehills first regular season game will go?, also who will Tannehills #1 WR be?
Gary Horton (3:23 PM)
I think Tannehill will be the toughest guy to judge of the young QBs, because his surrounding cast is just not up to speed. He does not have a go-to receiver. His OL is shaky. Reggie Bush is really the only playmaker they have on offense. I've watched Tannehill in the preseason and I really like what I have seen. I think he's playing a lot better than what I thought he would. He's very comfortable in that offense. He might be the one QB that looks good when you watch him on film, but it doesn't transfer to stats and wins and losses.
Don L. (Laughlin, NV)
What kind of season should we expect out of Broncos QB Peyton Manning, whom is a lifelong Southern boy that now has to adjust a set of past-his-prime lungs to the high, dry Rocky Mountain air in Denver, in addition to the fact that he is playing off of a neck injury?
Gary Horton (3:25 PM)
I think Peyton will be really good in Denver. He has better WRs to work with than most people realize. He will develop those young guys and take their game to a new level. I don't worry about the offense, I think it will evolve and be fine. I think the problems are on defense. Even though this team probably overachieved a year ago, my biggest fear is that expectations might be too high. Because they went to the playoffs a year ago and won a game, even if it might have been a fluke, that's probably set the ball too high for Manning, he could be good and they could not match the record of a year ago. Having said that, I think the AFC West is a very open race.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Happy Friday, Gary! I think the Vikings will have a good game and beat the Jaguars on Sunday. My upset pick of the week is Kansas City over Atlanta. I think that will be an excellent game! Your thoughts on these 2 games?
Gary Horton (3:27 PM)
It's hard to bet against KC when they're playing at home. It's one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. It will come down to Matt Cassell not making mistakes and their run game being what we expected. I love Atlanta, but I think KC will be able to slow the game down and limit Matt Ryan's possessions. It would not surprise me at all for KC to win this game.
Do you see the Broncos duo of Dumervil and V. Miller terrorizing that Pittsburgh offensive line on Monday night?
Gary Horton (3:29 PM)
I think they're going to develop into a great edge pass rush duo. I think you're right, they have a chance to really create pressure because of the Steelers' OL problems. I think they're vulnerable on the edge. I think the Steelers are worried about the blitz pick up by their backs. If they're forced to keep everyone in to block, that really limits their pass options. And I think Denver has real questions in the secondary, so a good pass rush can really protect those guys and not give Big Ben time to move around the pocket and let his receivers' routes develop.
Gary Horton (3:29 PM)
Here we go. None of us come up for air until February! How exciting is that?!