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!
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
A lot of people think tonight's matchup doesn't have a lot of luster because we're looking at two backup QBs. But I think this game is down to what these teams really are: run the football and play great defense, trying to create turnovers. It may not be a high scoring game, but I think it will be an old-fashioned, tough, football game that will be fun to watch for football purists. There's a lot riding on it for both teams.
With never ending speculation about Alex Smith's future, even when he's playing well, let's try a hypothetical. If Colin Kaepernick comes out tonight against a great Bears defense, and plays out of his mind, do the Niners start Kaepernick or Smith next week? Smith is safer, but obviously more limited as far as physical skills than Kaepernick. Again, all hypothetically.
Gary Horton (4:06 PM)
I don't think there's any question that Alex Smith is their QB. I don't expect Kaepernick to have a great game against the Bears, though I do think he's a great young guy. But this is Smith's team and there's no way in my mind that this coaching staff will make that change. It might stir up the fans and create a lot of watercooler talk, but this is Smith's team and he's done a good job. I don't think that would be the case.
gary do you think the new orleans saints can make the playoffs?your thoughts.
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
I haven't really studied the schedule that much, but it's an uphill battle. There are a lot of teams in the hunt and they have no margin for error. I just don't trust that defense to not have another stinker or two along the way. I look at the Saints and think they almost have to be perfect every week to stay in this. They have some tough games remaining.
Gary, which team has the better chance tonight with their backup?
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think San Francisco. I think Kaepernick can make some plays with his feet if he gets in trouble. I also think he throws a better deep ball than people realize. I think the coaches will give him their full game plan and not really simplify things and dial him back. I'm not sure that will be the case in Chicago where the coaches will be much more conservative. Because of that, I think the 49ers have a much better chance for big plays.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Happy Thanksgiving, Gary! Given that it sounds like both Roethlisberger and Leftwich will both be out for the Steeler's next game, how do you think they will fare with Charlie Batch at QB?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
I think it will probably look a lot like it did with Leftwich. They won't ask the QB position to win the game. They'll try to get it done with defense and the run game and ask the QB to make short, safe throws - screens, check offs, etc. - and hope their WRs with their great speed can generate yards after the catch. It might not be the perfect game plan, but it's the only one they have.
Why are people wanting to be so high on the Ravens? Despite their great play last night against the Steelers offense WITHOUT Big Ben their defense hasn't been that good. The game against the Texans is evidence enough why i'm not a huge believer.
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I like the pride that I see in the Baltimore defense, even though they're short-handed. What baffles me is I expected the offense to carry them through this stretch. All of a sudden, it disappeared last night with Flacco, Rice, etc. I just don't think the Ravens are good enough on defense to be able to survive very many average nights by their offense. To me, their defense is probably good enough to win a lot of games, if the offense is playing at a level it should.
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
But having said all of that, I don't know that I believe in anyone else in the AFC North right now.
Were you surprised at how badly the Houston defense played yesterday?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
Yes I was, especially their pass defense. They gave up too many big plays to a journeyman QB in Chad Henne. They made rookie WR Justin Blackmon look like a Pro Bowler. The pressure was inconsistent. But in this league you're not going to play the perfect game every week. I thought Sunday's games were a good instance of winning games even though it's not pretty. You're going to have many of those weeks, where you're going to have to scramble to win.
Lewis (Flint Michigan)
Gary its a forgone conclusion that Andy Reid is out in Philly at seasons end, but what about Michael Vick?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I really believe they're both gone. Part of me wouldn't mind seeing it happen now because I have so much respect for Andy and I can only imagine what he's going through. When you look at the Eagles on film, they look to be in a total free fall. I think Vick is totally tied into Andy and I think they'll both be on another team a year from now. I wouldn't be surprised if Andy took a year off to recharge his batteries and then come back. I believe that Vick will go somewhere and have an excellent chance to restart his career and become a starter.
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I think this story can have a happy ending, just not in Philadelphia.
Chad Henne had a huge game against the Texans. Have we seen the last of Blaine Gabbert this season?
Gary Horton (4:18 PM)
I don't know that, because I think the coaches are aware that Henne is who he is -- a journeyman backup. This organization is committed to going as far as they can with Gabbert to at least see what they have. Playing Henne when you have no chance for the playoffs makes no sense. Even if you win some games at the end of the season doesn't help your QB situation. As good as Henne looked yesterday, you still go back to Gabbert when he's healthy. This is the time your evaluate the organization for the future.
Matthew Stafford has looked like a different QB than 2011. His throws are all over the place. Is it mechanics ?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
He just doesn't seem to be throwing consistently. What's really bothered me is I don't think his deep ball is very good and that used to be a strength. In fairness to him, the fact that he has had a very inconsistent run game gives him no playaction package. He has been forced to use a short passing game, often to his TE, in lieu of a running game. His pass protection has been inconsistent. He's a quality QB, so eventually he'll get it right.
Trent Richardson had a solid game yesterday vs. DAL. Do you see him having that kind of workload for the remainder of the season? Shurmur wants to keep his job and the best way to do that would be to feed your best player, wouldn't you say? -signed a wishful TRich fantasy owner.
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
The good thing about Richardson is he's a three down player. Unlike a lot of power backs, he actually catches the ball well, so he can stay in on third down. When you get him the ball in space, he can be effective. I agree with you, I believe they will give him a solid workload the rest of the way. Not just to keep Shurmur's job, but because he's their best offensive player. If he's having success running the ball, you can eat up the clock and set up playaction.
Jim (New York)
Why is it that the Patriots are so good at WR screens (to Edelman or Welker)? Why are they so much more successful running that play than anyone else? Obviously it doesn't require a top tier QB to make that happen, and there are far better WR's out there then Edelman.
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
For one thing, their tackles do a really nice job of getting out wide and blocking. They're especially effective on the bubble screen, where the OT kicks out and the WR drops back like on a pick play. Also, all of these WRs block on the second level, including the TEs. That gives these little quick guys room. Yards after catch are really important to the Patriots.
Have you been surprised with the success that Doug Martin has had this year, and his similar numbers with some of the best like Adrian peterson?
Gary Horton (4:25 PM)
Well, I didn't think a lot about him until the last couple of weeks. But since he's had success, I've found out how many people really liked him going into the draft. I've watched him on film the last couple of weeks. What's really impressive about him is his power. He takes on tackles. He has really powerful legs and he's really good on yards after contact. Because he is so short, he's able to hide behind blockers a lot of the times. The other thing I really like about him is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. I think he's a really nice dumpoff option for Freeman. What's really impressive is that all of his inside run success is coming without two of the best OGs in the NFL in the lineup and are on IR. I think this guy is here to stay.
Most disappointing team this year has been?
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
Several teams come to mind, but I would say Carolina. I thought they had a potentially dynamic run game with three quality backs. Then you add Cam Newton as a guy who can run the ball and it led me to believe that this was going to be a dynamic offense on the ground and that would open up a great passing game for Newton. I thought they were good enough on defense to get it done. They were probably my pick to be a really improved team. Obviously, I'm wrong because they're not even close. Newton at times has looked like he's regressed. But this team is not without players.
Dallas and Washington is huge on Thanksgiving. Who do you like?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I probably like Dallas, but I don't say that with a lot of conviction. Their backs are probably against the wall. They have more impact players at the skill positions, if they play up to as expected. As great as RGIII looked on Sunday, he got away with a lot of throws that maybe he shouldn't have made because Philadelphia was so bad in coverage.
Can the bears hold off the packers in the nfc north?
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
I probably would lean toward the Packers right now, because I think they're going to get healthy at the right time and make a run. I like how their young defensive players are really starting to improve. I do worry about their lack of a run game continuing to be an issue and that could hold them back. As much as I like the Bears defense, I just don't think they can make game-changing plays every week. I think on the other side of the ball, the OL will continue to be an issue on a lot of levels. I think they're close, and they'll both make the playoffs, but I think the Packers probably get a nod because they have more explosive playmakers.
Gary Horton (4:33 PM)
I always felt like once we got to Thanksgiving Week, the season really got to be fun. We're in the stretch run. The playoff race becomes much more clear. And I love the fact about how many teams we have that are bunched together headed down the stretch. For fans that's a great thing to have your team be in the race at this time of the season. As great as this league is, it seems to me right now that we have a lot of really great teams, but I don't know if we have any dominate teams. Every team seems to have a flaw. I think that makes up for a good playoff run, because I don't see any team running away with this thing.