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, 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 Monday at 4 p.m. ET!
Gary Horton (4:02 PM)
With so many close games in Week 2, it certainly made for an exciting Sunday. The reality may be that we now have real parity in the NFL. I don't see a lot of elite teams and it seems like on any Sunday, any team is capable of knocking another team off. Obviously, the fans like that, but are we going to be happy with a bunch of 8-8 teams?
Harry (Babylon, NY)
The Jets D has started the season off well but have had big time blown coverages in both games. It cost them in NE and should have resulted in a loss against Tampa if not for a great play by Demario Davis and a foolish penalty. Is that typically due to 1 player missing their assignment or is it more of a unit reponsibility to make sure everyone knows where they should be?
Gary Horton (4:03 PM)
It's usually a lack of communication. Blown coverages are usually more than one guy. One guy might think he's getting help over the top and doens't get it and makes him look bad. In zone coverages, everyone has to understand what they're doing. I do like this DL and I think that's the strength right now of the Jets.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi, Since 1990 of all the teams that started out 0-2, 12% reached the playoffs with the 2007 Giants winning the Super Bowl. Of the current teams at 0-2 who'll make the playoffs this year in any?
Gary Horton (4:05 PM)
I would Minnesota has the best chance to turn it around, because they've been in two close games. I believe they have enough weapons to win. But of all the other 0-2 teams, I see major problems that I'm not sure can be fixed. They're obviously all flawed. I don't see any other 0-2 teams having a huge turn around.
Pending the result of tonight's MNF game, who will be in more trouble going 0-2? The Steelers or the Bengals?
Gary Horton (4:07 PM)
I think Pittsburgh is probably in more trouble, because I don't think they can fix the problems they have. They're in for a tough season. Their pass protection isn't very good. They don't have great weapons at WR. Whatever happens tonight, I don't see them having a great year. It would be bad for Cincy to lose tonight, simply because expectations are so high. It would be disappointing for them to get off to a 0-2 start. But like the Vikings, I think they're well suited to come back from that start, unless, we've overrated them.
Do you think Harrison Smith is becoming an elite safety? In his rookie year last year he had over 100 Tackles, 11 Pass Deflects, 3 Interceptions and 2 TDs. That's one of the best stat lines for a safety in a rookie year ever but he didn't get any love by the media because hes on MN. Now in this years first game he had 10 Tackles, 1 PD and a Fumble recovery. He is a great pass defender and is a big hitter. What do you think of him?
Gary Horton (4:08 PM)
I think he's a rising star. He has range. He's an excellent open field tackler. And I like his instincts in getting a jump on the ball. He's an excellent young playmaker.
Andrew (MPLS) [via mobile]
Gary, I am under the impression the Vikings have a pretty strong roster except for the most important position. Am I wrong with this assumption? With Avg QB play this is a playoff contender. Thanks and love your work!
Gary Horton (4:10 PM)
I think they're right on the edge. Having AP run the football gives you a chance to stay in the game. They do have good players. I think their passing game will get better as their new receivers develop. But, you're right, I'm not sold right now on Ponder. He's had enough playing time now to be farther along than he is. I don't think the Vikings are an elite team, but I think they're good enough to stay in most games. They just have to finish.
If you have the #1 pick in a fantasy league that begins Week 3, would you take Aaron Rodgers without a doubt? Although Peterson and other top RB's were taken in many fantasy leagues this year, at this point would you now think about taking a consistent fantasy QB stud in Rodgers?
Gary Horton (4:11 PM)
In Week 1 you would have probably said Peyton Manning. But I agree with you. Rodgers will always post great numbers. This is obviously a pass first offense. But I don't think you can go wrong with either he or Peyton, because both have great weapons.
Are the Giants going to bounce back? I know their schedule is fairly weak the rest of the way.
Gary Horton (4:13 PM)
Well, the more film I watch on the Giants, the more pessimistic I am about them turning it around. Their running game is in total shambles and it does not look fixable. When they have been at their best, they've always been able to run the ball. I'm also baffled by the lack of pass rush from what used to be a great front four. That exposes their defense on the back end in coverage. What that all adds up to is having to ask Eli and the passing game to carry you. I just don't think that's going to happen every week.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi Gary - in order to match up against the fast paced, explosive offensives throughout the league will teams start looking for hybrid LB/CB types of players who are strong enough to defend the run but also have the speed to stay with TE's and WR's?
Gary Horton (4:14 PM)
I think we're always looking for those types of players. In today's era of spread offenses, so many teams are forced to play their sub packages almost more than their base package. That requires guys who are good athletes to match up. I think you're exactly right. But you can't lose your physicality either. You need guys who are tough enough to take on blocks and tackle in space.
Hi Gary who wins the steelers bengals game on espn tonight?
Gary Horton (4:16 PM)
I think the Bengals should win this game comfortably. They have more explosive players. They have what should be a terrific front four pass rush, which will attack the weakness of the Steelers offense -- pass protection. With no run game for Pittsburgh, the Bengals can just tee off. If they lose this game, it would really surprise me and it would say something about the character of the Steelers. It would also say something about the lack of character of the Bengals, because they are the better football team.
Woody (Washington, DC)
What grade would you give Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel for his play during the first two weeks of the season? What level of play do you expect from him for the rest of the year?
Gary Horton (4:17 PM)
I would probably give him around a C-plus. I think he's playing with good composure. I see him make some really nice throws but you also see rookie mistakes. I think he's a work in progress. But I get the feeling that the players really believe in him. If I were a Buffalo fan, I would really feel good about the future.
All of this Vikings talk has me wondering, how big of a factor is my good friend Kyle Rudolph in reaching this successful season you speak of?
Gary Horton (4:19 PM)
I think he is critical, because with Ponder struggling at times, he is a very safe guy when they need a key passing play. I think Patterson will develop and Jennings will get better. But Rudolph is a tough matchup. I think he could post Gronk type numbers if Ponder can get him the ball.
Do you think everyone is Jumping ship on the Steelers a little to early? In my opinion they are, everyone wants to point to the o-line but for the past 6 or so season Ben has had a below avearge o-line to work with. I just think there is too much talent and leadership on that team to just fold. Thoughts?
Gary Horton (4:21 PM)
Well, I would agree with you, that they've won with less than great OL play. But with this year, Pouncey is by far their best player. He makes the OL calls and I think the trickle down effect is that there is no running game. There are no RBs that you can count on. You have no ability to be explosive in the run game, which means no play action. Your best vertical threat is in Miami. I just think they're going to have to ask Big Ben to win with the passing game and the other team knows it. They're just going to sit back in coverage knowing there's no run game. I love Pittsburgh, but it's an uphill climb.
DO you view Alfred Morris as the next potential Olandis Gary in the Shannahan running systme? Where he bursts onto the scene and then in a blink of an eye fizzles out.
Gary Horton (4:23 PM)
I was concerned about him in Week 1, but I thought he really played a gutsy game in Week 2. I think his biggest problem is the fact that the Redskins are not running the read option, which means there is not outside RG III threat to loosen up the defense. That really helped Morris a year ago, because the holes were bigger. Now the defense can pack in, because they know the edge of the defense won't be exploited. But he fits very well in the zone blocking scheme. He runs hard. He's really worked to improve his skills. I think he'll be around for a while.
I know they're rookies but the O in NE is scary. Talk me down from this ledge please.
Gary Horton (4:26 PM)
I think they'll get better each week. Their problem right now is their sight adjustment package doesn't exist. Brady, like Peyton Manning, expects his receivers to adjust their routes as they see the coverage. He seems to be seeing one thing, but his inexperienced WRs don't see it. That leads to too many mistakes. Brady will obviously need a lot of patience with these guys, but I think there is some optimism, because when they get Gronk and Amendola back and if they can stay healthy, it dramatically improves the offense. The AFC East is simply not a good division, even though Miami looks pretty good, which means they could lose some games with the young guys and it probably won't cost them as if they were in another division. The really interesting thing will be to see how they improve and how good they are when we near the playoffs. But I do expect improvement.
Is Geno Smith getting more criticism than he deserves? His WR core is not very good.
Gary Horton (4:28 PM)
When you're in the QB in New York, you're always going to get criticism. There are excuses, but it's also somewhat deserved. They don't have a run game. He probably has the worst group of WRs in the NFL. But, when I watch him on film, I don't see a guy who reads the entire defense. It seems he'll lock on to one receiver and make some plays he shouldn't. I think they have to be very patient with him. It's hard for me to tell yet if he's the answer. I think Manuel is in Buffalo. I'm not sure we feel quite that way about Geno Smith yet. But he's a young, talented guy.
Sean (Los Angeles)
Gary - thoughts on the Seahawks dominance last night? The Niners had absolutely no answers for their base defense. Also, they were without Browner, Clemons, and Irvin.
Gary Horton (4:30 PM)
Mike Ditka said on our show on Sunday that this game would be won on the trenches and he's going to be the bully on the block. That was Seattle. I was surprised that they could physically take it to the 49ers. I also think we probably got a little too optimistic about their passing game because of what we saw in Week 1 against the Packers. The Packers play a lot of off schemes and give WRs free releases. That doesn't happen with Seattle. They play physical and tight coverages. I think we saw Kaepernick and his receivers frustrated. I don't know how anybody is going to beat Seattle at home. Keep in mind the next time they play Seattle is likely to have Percy Harvin back which makes them even more dangerous. But don't expect the 49ers to go away. They're a talented team.
Gary Horton (4:31 PM)
Before the season, this looked like a marquee matchup tonight between two opponents that don't really like each other, but know each other well. I still think it's an interesting game, because there are a lot of veterans on the field with a lot of pride. This will be a game that measures character. It will be more physical than a lot of people think.
Buzzmaster (4:32 PM)
Thanks for chatting Gary!