Chat with James Walker
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Cavaliers at the Dispatch. Walker grew up in Hyattsville, Md., before attending Temple University, graduating in 2001 with a B.A. in communications and mass media. He resides in the Cleveland area.
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James Walker (11:58 AM)
Thanks for joining me. I'm in Cleveland getting ready for the Browns-Jets preseason opener so it should be the start of an interesting day. Let's get right into it.
Is this chat only for the AFC North?
James Walker (11:59 AM)
Usually yes. But that's not the case today. Since Brett Favre is coming to Cleveland tonight, I'm sure a lot of people will have other questions outside the division.
Do You think the Madden curse will have an effect on Brett Favre?
James Walker (12:00 PM)
I'm a gamer like a lot of people out here, and I will not doubt the Madden curse until someone breaks it. If Favre can't break it, no one can. But I think with this circus during the summer, it has already started.
Steve (Rochester, NY)
I know you cover the AFC North but can you tell me how the Packers are a better football team with Aaron Rodgers, a guy with zero NFL starts, than they are with Brett Favre, a guy who got them home field advantage in the NFC championship last season and is 18-4 in his last 22 games? C'mon this isn't Steve Young waiting in the wings behind Joe Montana. The Packers dropped the ball big time.
James Walker (12:01 PM)
I don't believe the Packers are a better team without Brett Favre. It's a lose-lose for everyone involved. The Packers will not win as many games this year without Favre, and Favre will not win as many as he could in Green Bay as a member of the Jets.
Robbie (Indianapolis, IN)
Let's keep this AFCN...to hell with Favre. What is Brady Quinn's trade value right now with Anderson being the future?
James Walker (12:03 PM)
Wow, Robbie. Are you already looking to run Brady Quinn out of town? The Browns are not trading Quinn, so this isn't even an issue. The team likes its depth at QB and will address the situation after the season.
Joe form Columbus
As a Browns fan I tend to be pessimistic and the possibilities of preseason injuries scare me. If Braylon goes down what happens to the Browns receiving corps with Joe pretty much done?
James Walker (12:04 PM)
What's with all the negativity from Browns fans today? It would be a significant blow if the team loss Edwards, but why worry if it hasn't happened?
Hey James, Do you think the AFC North sends a wildcard team to the playoffs this year? Also, what record wins the division this year? Thanks..
James Walker (12:05 PM)
It will be tough, but I think it can be done. The AFC is going to be brutal this year, so 10 wins should get a wild-card berth. Both the Steelers and Browns on paper have the potential to win 10 games. I'm not sure if Baltimore or Cincinnati can win that many.
In response to Robbie, what is Derek Anderson's trade value after this year with Quinn being the future?
James Walker (12:07 PM)
You guys won't let Cleveland play a game first. Anderson's value should be higher than Quinn's if he plays out the season at a high level, similar to last year. If he makes the Pro Bowl again, or close to it, the Browns should be able to get a first- or second-round pick for Anderson if they choose to move him.
Have u seen Brett Favre in Cleveland today since the Jets are playin the Browns?
James Walker (12:08 PM)
No. The plan is for him to fly to New York first to get a tour of the facilities. Then Brett Favre will travel to Cleveland to watch his new teammates play against the Browns. He has a press conference today at 6 p.m.
Hey James, In your opinion out of the AFC North training camps so far what team has impressed you the most? Which team has the most to work on?
James Walker (12:10 PM)
I've been most impressed with the Browns and Steelers. Both of those teams have a lot of talent flying around the field in practice. The Ravens look shaky to me on offense, and Cincinnati has a ton of young players trying to fill big roles and I think that team has the furthest to go. But it's early.
Colton - Ypsilanti Michigan
Now that Brett Favre is out of Green Bay, what are the Lions chances of winning the Nfc North
James Walker (12:11 PM)
The Lions have a better chance, but not a great chance. The Vikings and Bears are probably more talented than Detroit right now.
Luis (SB, CA)
James, since you seem to like these AFC North questions: Who wins game one Dallas or Cleveland?
James Walker (12:12 PM)
Luis, how are you? I cover the AFC North for ESPN.com. I'm going to withhold judgment on the first game until I watch these teams in the preseason for a little bit. The evaluation starts tonight.
Jon (Elyria, OH)
Anderson looked like such a natural in Chudzinski's system last year. The browns have every reason to be optimistic with him as the starter. And until it becomes impractical to keep both he and Quinn on the roster, why move either one of them?
James Walker (12:14 PM)
They will have to move one of them next season. Both players are starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and a good amount of their contracts are based on performance. Brady Quinn is not going to sit for a third straight year when he can probably start for a dozen teams in the league next year. And Derek is not going to be a backup if he has another good season.
What do you think the outlook will be like for the Pittsburgh Steelers ?
James Walker (12:16 PM)
Pittsburgh is going to be a good team this year. The question is can it be a great team? The offensive line will be the difference between the two, because if the Steelers can't block anyone, they will not be able to beat teams like the New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts.
Blaine (Harrisburg PA)
James what did you think of LB's Woodley and Timmons?
James Walker (12:17 PM)
I spent this week in Steelers camp and those were two players I really wanted to take a long look at. I am impressed. They seem much more comfortable in their second year and both are big hitters. Timmons made the hit of the week during a goal-line drill Tuesday. You could head the pads crack a mile away.
The media seems pretty excited about Cleveland. But shouldn't the Browns have to beat Pittsburgh (or any playoff caliber team for that matter) before being annoited a "playoff" team?
James Walker (12:20 PM)
Technically, you don't have to beat one team to make the playoffs. The Browns won 10 games last year and lost via a tiebreaker. It would make things much easier if Cleveland can at least split with Pittsburgh. But if things go well for the Browns they should be in the playoff hunt this year regardless.
One area of concern with the Steelers is special teams. Losing Sepulveda is crushing, but there is also not consistency for the return game. Who do you expect to win the job, Mewelde, Reid, Drummond, Mendenhall, Bloom?
James Walker (12:21 PM)
Good point Jason. Pittsburgh's special teams were not that great to begin with, and losing its punter hurts. The team is still trying to find a returner and was working out a lot of guys this week. I'll gett back to you when they make a decision.
Can Paul Hubbard make any sort of impact in Cleveland this year? He is raw, but I think he's a beast...
James Walker (12:22 PM)
Hubbard is still a work in progress. He has a ways to go before he makes an impact with Cleveland. Physically he looks fine, but he needs to take some steps mentally before you throw him in with guys like Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth and Kellen Winslow Jr.
John (C-Town, OH)
Is Sepulveda a body builder? Have you ever seen that guy? He is MASSIVE and he is a punter.
James Walker (12:23 PM)
I noticed that, too, John. Sepulveda is a workout warrior and pretty muscular for a punter. Good observation.
Ryan (Austin, TX)
James, great job with the blog. Any observations on the rookie Mendenhall? Should Willie Parker be worried?
James Walker (12:24 PM)
Rashard Mendenhall is getting better but he still has some things to learn. He is practicing against a tough defense everyday, and he makes mistakes, like running upright, they usually make him pay. Willie Parker is the starter and shouldn't be worried. Together they should be a great 1-2 punch.
Jared (New Rochelle, NY)
Ray Rice will start the Ravens' first preaseason game. What type of impact do you see him having this year? Is he more than a third down back?
James Walker (12:26 PM)
I'm impressed with Ray Rice so far. He will be used as a change up to Willis McGahee, but tonight is a good opportunity for Rice to show what he can do full-time. He's also a canidate to return kicks.
do you think the jets now with favre will cause any problems for the patriots?
James Walker (12:27 PM)
Nope. The Jets are improved with Favre, but they won't win the division. Their best hope is a wild-card.
Don Jaun Quesadilla (Rancho Salsa, Texas)
How's Shaun Rogers looking? Loved him in college. I figured he do alot better in a true football town with a new change of scenery.
James Walker (12:29 PM)
Shaun Rogers has been the most impressive player in Cleveland's training camp so far. He looks motivated by his new surroundings, and when he's pushed to prove something he is very hard to slow down. I think he will have a great year.
If Anderson has a Pro Bowl year does that mean Quinn would go? I like DA better but I'd rather trade him and get the first rounder.
James Walker (12:30 PM)
The Browns are going to have to think long and hard about that one. My educated guess is that if Derek Anderson makes the Pro Bowl again, the team keeps him over the potential trade value he would bring. Good quarterbacks are hard to find.
Steve (Syracuse, NY)
ARe the jets even a wild card team with the Patriots, Titans, Jags, Steelers....I just dont see the Jets as good enough
James Walker (12:32 PM)
Brett Favre at least puts them in the conversation. That's why the Jets made the move. Otherwise, they wouldn't have a chance with some of the teams you just mentioned.
Willie (Portland, OR)
How many years does Favre play with the Jets? Will this change their options regarding their QB situation later on (get rid of Clemens, etc.)?
James Walker (12:33 PM)
My guess is that Brett Favre plays a max of two more years. Clemens is still young and could wait his turn.
Luis (SB, CA)
JW, you mentioned earlier you wouldn't pick the winner of week one. But can you give us a forcast of how the Joe Thomas vs. DeMarcus Ware match-up will end up? Has JT ever gone up against such a formidable opponent?
James Walker (12:35 PM)
Great, great matchup. These guys are two of the best at their position. Joe Thomas is such a technician that I think he will be able to stop Ware for most of the game. But Ware's has a motor that will keep attacking and if the Browns fall behind and have to pass, he could make a big play against Thomas.
Is there any provision that the Jets cant trade Farve to Minnesota?
James Walker (12:36 PM)
Reports say the team will have to give up multiple first-round picks, which could be devastating to a franchise. If the reports are accurate, I would rule out a trade to Minnesota.
Calamari Sauteed Slowly(Wash Your Hands, Cali)
James, we AFC North fans need a few minutes of Favre Free Zone. Please pass on the next 345 Faveresce Emails. Oh, how do the Browns look mentally with the hype of this years hopes. Hopefully not like Game 1 last year?
James Walker (12:38 PM)
The Browns are a lot more focused this year. I recall last season when all the media requests and hype took over the final month and the team lost sight of certain things. But they are really determined to prove last year wasn't a fluke. If they stay healthy, I think they will be fine.
How has Corey Williams looked in Browns camp so far? Its been reported that he's struggled adjusting to the 3-4
James Walker (12:39 PM)
He hasn't struggled. He's been injured. He's nursing a shoulder injury and is missing a lot of reps in camp. The team is being very cautious with Williams because he is an important piece to the puzzle on defense.
Blaine (Harrisburg PA)
What are your thoughts of Sweed? Do you think he takes over number 3 by the end of the year or does Nate the Great hold on?
James Walker (12:40 PM)
I just talked to Nate Washington yesterday and he is embracing the competition. Physically, Sweed is just what Pittsburgh needs in the slot. He's big and he goes up and gets the football. But Washington is savvy and holding onto the No. 3 WR spot for now.
Where will Pennington end up? Would he fit in with the Vikings? I actually prefer Jackson and Ferotte. What do you think?
James Walker (12:41 PM)
There are a lot of teams that need quarterbacks. I would say Chicago and Minnesota are two possible destinations.
Willie (Portland, OR)
Is this going to be the last big push for Baltimore? When do you see them beginning to dismantle the team and trading people like McAllister, Reed, etc. away for future draft picks?
James Walker (12:43 PM)
Great question. The Ravens will have to think about this in the offseason when Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott are all free agents. This is a big evaluation year in Baltimore. The new coaching staff inherited a lot of talent and wants to see who stays and who goes. But the Ravens could be a dangerous team.
SprungOnSports (Long Island)
How are the Bengals rookie receivers doing behind Chad and Housh? How much do you think Ben Utecht will be used in the passing game?
James Walker (12:45 PM)
I haven't been all that impressed with Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell. They've made some plays in camp, but not enough to where you would feel comfortable playing them a lot of downs. Ben Utecht will be a good addition giving Carson Palmer something he's never had in a receiving tight end.
O/U 10, Patriots wins.
James Walker (12:45 PM)
Easiest question of the day. Over 10 wins.
Robbie (Indianapolis, IN)
James, how about giving us Browns fans an update on Brandon McDonald and Eric Wright? Both seem promising and brimming with confidence...can they get the job done?
James Walker (12:47 PM)
Both are playing pretty well in practice. But I would be concerned that both can make the jump. They play a lot of good offenses this year. Their lack of size will hurt them.
Steve (Syracuse, NY)
Any concerns over chemistry with the Jets?
James Walker (12:49 PM)
Not at all. The Jets didn't know who their quarterback was going into the first preseason game anyway. Now they have that question answered and can move forward.
At first do you think it might almost be easier for Aaron Rodgers to start on the road then at home? With all the Favre backers that will be wanting to boo him or second guess him with every incompletion or interception he might throw?
James Walker (12:51 PM)
Aaron Rogers is in a tough spot regardless. He will not win 13 games, put up Favre-like numbers, or lead the team to the NFC championship. So his season already is slated to be a dissapointment, which is probably unfair to him.
Ron (Clarks Summit, PA)
Since returning from the PUP list with a huge arm brace, how has Chris Kemoeatu looked in his quest to take over Faneca's vacated LG spot?
James Walker (12:53 PM)
You know, I watch Chris closely this week and he impressed me most of the offensive line. He's wearing a special brace on his arm to prevent the muscle from locking up, so keep an eye on that. But he's looked good so far.
Aaron (Rochester, NY)
What impact will Kamerion Wimbley have this year with all the bulk in the front three eating up blockers in Cleveland?
James Walker (12:54 PM)
This is a no excuse year for Kamerion Wimbley. He had a great rookie year sack-wise, then tailed off and had a lot of pressures. But those pressure should turn into sacks again with the additions of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams up front.
James, What about Buffalo's playoff changes as a wild card considering Cleveland being in the mix?
James Walker (12:56 PM)
Buffalo was a team no one wanted to play during the second half of last season. But I think the Bills have fallen behind a lot of teams after free agency and the draft. It's going to be tough to get a wild-card in the AFC this year, and playing New England and now Brett Favre twice a year won't make it any easier.
Willie (Portland, OR)
How much improved will Cincinnati's defense be?
James Walker (12:57 PM)
I think Cincinnati's defense will struggle right off the bat, then get better in the second half of the season. They have a lot of young players trying to learn a new scheme.
Do you think Favre sees any action in the first game? Maybe one series, or not until the following week since it is so close already.
James Walker (12:58 PM)
If you're talking about tonight's game, Brett Favre will not play. He won't even get his playbook until later today. There's a chance he could play in the second preseason game and most definitely the third.
Will Rudi be the old Rudi? Reports say he looks good, but can he be trusted on my fantasy team?
James Walker (12:59 PM)
Rudi Johnson looks really good in training camp. Last year was the first time he's even been injured significantly, so he's a dependable player.
James, do you think this is the year that Hines Ward relinquishes the number 1 WR duties to Santonio Holmes? Santonio is definitely the more explosive player and is a home run threat, and while I still love Hines, at this point he's not much more then an excellent possession guy and a tremendous blocker.
James Walker (1:00 PM)
Hines brings a lot more than just catches to Pittsburgh. He's the best run blocker in the NFL as a WR and he's clutch on third down. So those two factors make him still the top guy, but Santonio will be great this year. He's a big-play threat so he could have more yards than Ward.
Steve (Syracuse, NY)
Any playoff teams from last year that just fall flat this year James?
James Walker (1:01 PM)
I'm looking at the Tennessee Titans to fill that role this year.
Eric (Sioux City)
Any news on Jared Gaither's injury. He is one of the players I am most excited to see this year.
James Walker (1:02 PM)
Jared Gaither is going to be out for a few more weeks with an ankle injury. He needs the reps and they will try to get him some before the regular season.
James Walker (1:03 PM)
Thanks everyone for your time. I appreciate it. Sorry I have to go. I have a lot of interesting things to cover today at Browns Stadium. Talk to you soon.