Chat with Gary Horton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN's NFL "Caveman" -- and Insider -- 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 Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
How do you see Jay Gruden handling RGIII this season?
Gary Horton (4:02 PM)
Jay is an excellent QB coach. I think he will do a great job of maximizing his talent, but also really working with him on his mechanics. I've been told that they're going to give him more freedom at the line of scrimmage to audiblize. I think it has a chance to be an excellent relationship and that RGIII could be closer to how he played as a rookie.
noel (kansas city )
with the niners probably or at least possibly missing their two best players on d in bowman and aldon for half the season can you see the niners defense slipping to the bottom half maybe bottom ten ? willis is no longer a great player and Justin smith is getting old ! do you think the offense can pick up the slack ?
Gary Horton (4:04 PM)
I don't think so. The one thing you have to remember about the 49ers is they have had a lot of draft picks in the last 2-3 years, and they've really kept a lot of quality young guys around that now have a chance to step in. One of their biggest assets is their overall depth and quality of roster. Patrick Willis will take a lot of Bowman's responsibilities. They will find pass rushers to fill in for Smith. I do not believe this team takes a major step backwards.
Michael (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
This cool spell has got me ready for some football! Camps are right around the corner. Which team are you looking forward to seeing most?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
Interesting questions....Houston is very interesting, because we're just not sure how their offensive schemes will play out. Cleveland is fascinating to me because of the QB situation. And I'm a little curious to see how Miami rebounds from all of the problems they had last year.
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
But there are many more storylines beyond those that are fascinating.
Anthony (Andover, MA)
Do you see the Eagles offense improving or regressing in Year Two of the Chip Kelly regime?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
They are another team that I'm fascinated to watch in the preseason, because I think they will take a big step forward. These players have a year with the system. They have tremendous offensive weapons and a QB with a year of experience. Now they add Darren Sproles, I don't know how you matchup with them. It all comes down to defense and can they be good enough to slow them down? You can be a middle of the road defense and get by if you have an offense that good, but they didn't have that last year.
Silverback (Jacksonville, Fl)
Fact or Fiction? The Jags are a .500 team this year. (Please say fact)
Gary Horton (4:09 PM)
I think it's fiction. They're well-coached. They had a good draft, but there are so many questions. We have no idea what they'll get out of the QB position. Their franchise RB is gone. Their best WR is suspended. And they don't have enough playmakers on defense. I think they'll play in some close games. This coaching staff is doing a nice job, but they just don't have the personnel yet. Even though this might not be the strongest division in the AFC, I can't see how they could be a .500 team.
Anthony (Andover, MA)
Gary, I'm intrigued by the potential of Cardinal 3rd year WR, Michael Floyd, what's the buzz about him potentially reaching elite status in the next two years?
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think you're right. Everybody I've talked to thinks he is ready for a breakout year. When you're playing with Larry Fitzgerald, you're going to get less double teams. Now, they're really going to include the TE in the passing game. Bruce Arians loves the deep ball. Floyd is a guy that can go and get it. Much like Philadelphia, these guys have had a year in this offense to understand the concept. It is a thinking man's offense and I think the improvement will be dramatic.
The Pats look like they're improving Defense is right on par with their Offense gaining some momentum with the youngsters getting experience last year. If Gronk can stay healthy, I think they are the favorites in the AFC, do you agree?
Gary Horton (4:12 PM)
I think even without Gronk, they're easily the favorites of the AFC East. As I look at it, it comes down to two teams in the AFC: Denver and New England. The winner of Denver at New England will probably host homefield throughout the playoffs. Gronk makes NE better, obviously. I do like the Patriots' defense, if all the guys that got hurt last year come back healthy and if Darrelle Revis comes back healthy to be the corner we think he can be. The fate of this team could come down to the secondary and how they play.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Gary - Jason Garrett got the Cowboys a 5-3 record after replacing Wade Phillips then went 8-8 the next 3 years, if Jason starts out 4-4 or worse will Jerry Jones make a head coaching change?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I don't think so. I don't know who he has on this staff that would be any better. Garrett is not going to run this offense, so he's not going to take the blame if they struggle. Even though he's spending more time on the defensive side of the ball, he's not running it, so he's off the hook there. I think Jerry Jones really likes him and hopes they can get better. I don't see a midseason change. Really, to your argument, they look like a .500 team, and if that's who you are, you don't make changes, because you think you're close to breaking out of that mold. It's not like you're 0-8.
A season after having the most players in the pro bowl, the Texans imploded resulting in a 2-14 season which was good for worst in the NFL. When will the Texans reach the playoffs again?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
They will be dramatically better this season. What happened a year ago is not who they are. Lots of injuries, a lot of close games, unexpected mistakes. They still have a lot of talent on that team. They have pretty good overall balance. There is not any particular area. This is not a great division. They are already better than Tennessee and Jacksonville and I think they have a good chance of catching or staying close to Indy. I think they will be competitive this year. Maybe not make the playoffs, but it wouldn't surprise me if they're in the playoffs a year from now.
Scott (Westminster, CO)
When you were working for an NFL club, what did you do for these 'dead weeks' when you had either no or little contact with the players? Just hope they stayed out of trouble, or were there other measures you could take?
Gary Horton (4:20 PM)
This is also a time for coaches and the front office to take a vacation. You have meetings with the players before you break from mini camp. All you can do is warn them and tell them to stay out of trouble. You just hope for the best. You can't watch over them like kids. What's really funny is people think coaches come back from vacation a lot before the players. But the reality is they get their fall schedules and playbooks together before the break and then they only get back 5 or 6 days before camp. Most teams start camp around the 23rd or so, which means most coaches would be back after this weekend. But it's a very scary time. You have guys with a lot of money and a lot of potentially bad influences going back to their hometown. It takes a lot of discipline for them all to stay out of trouble and do the right thing. It's a lot different when they're in their home team city and the team gives them structure.
Ron (Flint, MI)
With Suh, and a healthy, in-shape Fairley, what are you expecting from this Detroit Defense? Will their corners be able to contribute in a positive way, or just keep from destroying the Defense?
Gary Horton (4:22 PM)
We expect this defensive front to dominate for years. We see flashes of it, but we don't see it enough. There are times when they just don't dominate. This is not a good enough defense on the backend if the frontend doesn't play well. The key is the pass rush. I think they're capable of getting there, but they have underachieved the past few years. I see signs from Suh and Fairley where they are so aggressive with penetration that they are easily trapped and taken out of the play. They don't always play with great instincts and discipline. Certainly the talent is there.
Sir, Experts seem to forget Packers came with in a rookie dropping an interception to beat the Niners. With a third of there Defense injured. They match up well with Seattle. Can you see GB taken those two beasts down? Thanks.
Gary Horton (4:24 PM)
I'm not sure anybody can go into Seattle and win in January. The challenge for the Packers is to play at home as late into the postseason as they can. I agree, a lot of people aren't talking about them. This is a terrific offense that now has a running game. That gives them great balance. Their success comes down to the secondary. Their front seven has a chance to be good, but they have not been a great matchup group. They have had to come up with a lot of gimmick schemes to mask their weaknesses. If they can limit big plays, solidify their pass defense, this is a really good football team. But they are in a competitive division, with Chicago being strong and Detroit rebounding.
Ryan Fitz scares me with the turnovers but he does have a history of playing well at times. Does Andre holding out prevent this from happening? I don't understand, he's gonna report at some point and then need to improve chemistry with Fitz. Seems like he's just taking some time off.
Gary Horton (4:27 PM)
You have to know about Bill O'Brien's offenses. His QB has to be smart more than anything else, because he puts a lot on his plate. This guy will mentally be able to handle everything he has to do. Physically, he's not overly gifted, but he can get it done. Andre Johnson is a big target and he would be a loss. Although this offense will use the TEs a lot in the passing game. As much as O'Brien would want Andre Johnson, feels a little bit like Chip Kelly in that this is such a sound scheme and you can plug guys in. I don't know why Johnson would embrace him and the scheme, he could have a great year. I'd be very surprised if the Texans don't play hardball with him if he decides he wants to hold out.
JC (Park City, UT)
Your thoughts on T. Rich this year...boom or bust?
Gary Horton (4:29 PM)
I think that's absolutely accurate. He got a free pass last year when he got traded to Indy, because he didn't know the offense. He seemed hesitant to hit the hole. Now he's had half a season and a whole offseason to get comfortable. He's even said that he feels like he knows the offense very well. They need him to have a good year. If he plays well, that makes Andrew Luck even better. Not only because he can hand the ball off, but it makes his play action that much better.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
The slow time for the NFL, if there is one, is probably over at the end of this week. Teams, next week, start to get ready for training camp and there will be a lot more things going on. If you want action, we're about to get much more than we can handle for the next 6 months.