Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the NFL and what to expect from your team.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join James Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Hello everyone. We are going to keep it traditional with this week's chat. Let's get started.
Hey James, love the column, follow every day (from work). Now that Starks has his contract cleared up who do you see them going for next? I think Miller should be top priority seeing as the rest are headed up in age, something the Steelers really look at.
James Walker (4:02 PM)
We will get started with this one right off the bat, because I know this question will be asked many more times. I know for sure the Steelers have opened talks with Ryan Clark during this offseason. I don't know if they have done the same with Heath Miller, but it's very possible. So I would say it's a race between those two.
Do you see Mark Sanchez and Matt Stafford being able to do for the Jets and Lions what Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did last year for the Falcons and Ravens?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
I do not, Will. That would mean both the Lions and Jets will advance to the playoffs and one of those teams will get to the conference title game. That is highly unlikely. What we saw last year was the exception, not the rule.
Zach (Cincinnati, OH)
Are there no offensive linemen that are free agents that the Bengals could pick up?
James Walker (4:05 PM)
It's tough this time of year to do so, Zach. Probably the top lineman who can contribute right away is Levi Jones, a former Bengal, and Cincinnati is the team which released him.
Bengals running back question here. After a strong finish last year, Benson locked up the starting role. Do you see Scott challenging him for that role throughout the season? This guy has had tremendous flash in camp and if he can stay out of trouble has great potential.
James Walker (4:07 PM)
Cedric Benson is pretty firmly entrenched as the starter, Berger. There is a lot of competition to be Benson's backup in training camp. But I don't see anyone else like Scott, Brian Leonard, etc. taking Benson's job unless he gets hurt.
Colin (Des Moines, IA)
How good of a year do you think Joe Flacco is going to have after his pretty good rookie season? Sophomore slump?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
Readers of the AFC North blog know that I am pretty high on Joe Flacco. I think he has what it takes to be a good NFL quarterback for a long time. I don't expect a sophomore slump, if anything I think he will get better in Year 2. So will the offense in general.
Is it possible for Baltimore to not add a Brandon Marshall to their receiving squad and have success this year? It sounds like that idea is quickly fading away.Do you think the Ravens were wise to go Tackle in the draft instead of future WR?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
From everything I heard in the past week, I would be surprised if the Ravens traded for Brandon Marshall. The offense doesn't need to be high-powered on a team like Baltimore. So gradual improvement by Joe Flacco would still make the team dangerous. I can't complain about getting a tackle over a receiver, especially after Willie Anderson retired after the draft.
Hey JW the Bengals are getting alot of hype this year and are even on Hard Knocks. Their story is sounding alot like last years team on Hard Knocks..the overrated Cowboys..
James Walker (4:13 PM)
I don't think you can compare the "hype," Dan. The Cowboys were predicted to win the Super Bowl. The Bengals are just picked as a surprise team. When Dallas flopped, it barely missed the playoffs. If Cincinnati goes 8-8 or 9-7 and barely miss the playoffs, it would be considered a good season.
EJ Sumski (PA)
James, what are the chances that Eric Steinbach actually is a 2nd stringer when the season starts?
James Walker (4:16 PM)
I would say not great. Eric Mangini isn't being specific about much, so I can only read into his actions. I think this is his way of making a statement to Steinbach that he needs to keep bulking up, which has been the case.
After seeing all 4 AFCN teams thru minicamp, what are "your way too early" predictions for the 2009 division standings?
James Walker (4:17 PM)
Rob, I'm not making any firm predictions until the start of the regular season. But check out the AFC North blog tomorrow for a feature I'm working on that addresses this very topic.
How many Ravens made the all decade team?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
Three so far Chauncey: Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden. We still have the all-decade special teamers and all-decade team running later this week.
I know Ray signed his extension this offseason but what are the chances this could be his last year despite that contract.
James Walker (4:20 PM)
I did an interview with Ray Lewis last year and talked about this with him. He told me at the time he wanted to play 3-4 more years, which now is 2-3 more years. Obviously that can always change.
What do you think or Rey Malaluga in what you have seen so far, are him and Rivers going to play well together on that Bengals D? How is Rivers doing since breaking his jas last year?
James Walker (4:23 PM)
Keith Rivers is doing well. Check out the AFC North blog for a recent feature I did on him last Friday. Rey looks good, but I have questions about him in pass coverage. If/when he plays, it's going to be at outside linebacker, which means he will have to deal with some tight ends and running backs in open space.
Dustin Welch (Canton, OH)
James, The Browns cornerbacks last season were obviously inexperienced and got outplayed in a lot of games. Do you think Wright or McDonald will get beat out by the new corners Mangini's has brought in?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
Eric and Brandon have actually done a good job impressing their new coaches. They were playing with the first team for the entire offseason, so there's a good chance they will hold onto their jobs. But competition is always good.
Mike (Rochester, NY)
Do you see the Browns trading Eric Steinbach this season and do you see any of the Browns rookies starting on opening day?
James Walker (4:26 PM)
No I do not see a trade for Eric Steinbach this summer. And first-round center Alex Mack has a chance to catch Hank Fraley or possibly play guard in Week 1.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
JW: Which divisions will provide the AFC Wild Cards this year? Some writers have picked the AFC East providing one, which would leave either the AFC North or South out...
James Walker (4:28 PM)
I think the AFC North has a good chance for one. Some mentioned two, but that is extremely hard to do. If I had to choose between the AFC South and AFC East, I would go with the AFC South.
Richard (Richmond ky)
has any one picked up chris perry yet
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Chris Perry was drafted in the UFL.
Joe Johnson (NEWARK NJ)
Enough about the Ravens....how about them Giants?!
James Walker (4:29 PM)
What about them, Joe? What's your question?
Suprised Ward didn't even get a sniff for all decade team. Superbowl MVP, 2 rings, and 4 pro-bowls??? No argument about who got it, but not even in the conversation seems a bit rough...
James Walker (4:31 PM)
I wasn't surprised at all. There's only two slots for WRs. I thought Randy Moss should have been one of the two receivers.
With Jamal Lewis getting up in years and lacking more in production, how do you see the workload being shared between Jerome Harrison and James Davis?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Eric Mangini really likes Jamal Lewis. His physical running style fits exactly what Cleveland is trying to do this year. So Lewis will get a lot of carries, where Harrison or Davis will compete to be the change-of-pace back.
As a Steeler I couldn't be more happy to see Lawrence Timmons take over for Larry Foote at ILB. What are your impressions or expectations for him?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
Check the AFC North blog tomorrow. We will go more in depth with Timmons and some other topics.
Any idea why the Bengals opted to move Whitworth to left tackle rather than keeping Anthony Collins there and leaving Whitworth at left guard?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
"Whit" was at his best when he concentrated on being a tackle. Overall the Bengals feel Whitworth could be a better player there than Collins.
Eric B. (Denver, CO)
make or break year for Chris Henry
James Walker (4:38 PM)
Contract year for Chris Henry. So it's pretty big.
What's been your favorite pre-season 'marvin-ism'. Personally I liked 'grab a shovel' but 'fight back' isn't terrible...if only they actually worked
James Walker (4:39 PM)
I like the "Fight back!" motto, Eric. I think it fits after last season, in addition to what they're going to have to do to be successful in the AFC North this season.
big mick (pittsburgh)
does the retirement of backup bryant hurt the steelers plans at cb?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
I don't think so. Pittsburgh drafted two rookie cornerbacks and signed veteran Keiwan Ratliff. So Bryant was facing an uphill battle to make the team had he stayed.
Can you tell me a little about Cook, Cincy's C, The guys on Bengals.com started comparing him to Brahm already, is it a little quick to make those comparisons?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
I agree that it's very early for that comparison. But Kyle Cook has some good strength and a mean streak, which is needed in Cincinnati. He got into a couple tussles in minicamp against his own teammates. I still have questions if Cook can handle the tough NTs in the AFC North.
Ken (Dayton, Ohio)
What do you see as the chances that Andre Smith will hold out?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
Looking at the Bengals history as a team and Smith's history with agents so far, I think the chances are pretty good. But the Bengals may buck those trends. Who knows?
What unit do you think will be the strongest for the Ravens this year both on offense and defense?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
With the Ravens you always go defense, George.
There was some talk about Mike Brown (former Bears safety, not current Cavs coach) visiting Cleveland. Any development there?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
Mike Brown came in for a visit, Nick. But nothing went beyond that point. The Browns just wanted to see if he could help. Maybe if there is an injury, Cleveland could revisit this.
Tim (Tampa, Fl)
Are you going to be at the home opener- Titans at Pitt??? After Bulluck pulled out the Terrible Towel from his locker we booked our flight to the 'Burgh!!!!! Its gonna be Awesome!!!!!
James Walker (4:53 PM)
I will be there, Tim, to kickoff the 2009 season. Ironically, I got to cover the final game of the 2008 season as well as the first game of this season.
Had Mauluga not been there in the second, what is the likelihood the Bengals would have drafted hometown product DE/TE Connor Barwin?
James Walker (4:55 PM)
It's tough to play the "what if" game in the draft Kevin. What I can tell you is Cincinnati was surprised, borderline shocked, that Rey was available with its second-round pick.
Bopper (The Fallowfield)
What are the chances Cincy has 4 Major Contributors at WR? Would it possible for one of the TE's to break out too?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
Four "major" contributors and a break-out tight end this year. You think Carson is going to throw for 5,000 yards?
Do you have any issues with the all decade offense and defense? That is, anyone--besides Moss, as you mentioned--that you felt should have been named?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
Leaving out Randy Moss was the big one. I also thought we should have considered using a 3-4 defense for this decade because so many teams (New England, Pittsburgh) won Super Bowls with it recently.
James Walker (5:01 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for the great questions. We have some fun things coming up this week in the AFC North blog. So be sure to check them out.