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 (3:59 PM)
Let's get right into some questions this week.
Considering Mike Tomlin's background, do you see the Steelers implementing more Cover 2 schemes in the defense this year?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Yes, Jordan. I think that's in Pittsburgh's plans. If you look at some of the players the Steelers brought in this year, such as Keiwan Ratliff and rookie Keenan Lewis, these players either played or look like they can play the scheme. It could be a very small part that eventually grows over the next few years under Tomlin.
Josh Starleper (Baltimore)
Do you think our passing game will improve? And our defense stay the same or better or worse?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
Baltimore's passing game should be better because I expect Joe Flacco to be better. One of the young receivers could also step up as the No. 3 option and there's depth at tight end. It's going to be a challenge for Baltimore's defense to be as good as last year without some key players and Rex Ryan calling the shots. But if the offense improves the team should be fine.
Blips McGee (Pittsburgh (City of Champions))
Over/under on drops for Braylon Edwards this year?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
If Brady Quinn wins the job: seven. If Derek Anderson wins the job: nine. Quinn's throws are easier to catch.
Tim (Tampa, Fl)
Hey James, hope you had a great 4th!!! Anything new to report about some of the Steelers upcoming FA's??? Heath or Clark coming soon??
James Walker (4:07 PM)
Thanks, Tim. Things are pretty status quo. Because of the holiday week, there wasn't much movement. Expect rookie Evander Hood to get his deal complete before anything moves with a player already under contract.
James Walker (4:10 PM)
The Browns aren't putting a firm timeline on their QB competition. But most teams decide after the third or fourth preseason game. As far as trades, it's hard to say. It would depend on the offer and the player. I doubt Quinn would get traded, and I'm not sure there's a market for Anderson unless there is a big injury in the preseason.
Bobby V (Columbus)
Is the Bengals camp truly a positive place at this time? I keep readin that but cant imagine that everything is as ok as it sounds. I am waiting for the explosion of egos.
James Walker (4:12 PM)
Everyone is very optimistic in Cincinnati, Bobby. It was that way after the Bengals finished the season strong, and the free agents and draft picks they picked up added to it. It will be important to win early, because the Bengals could be a boom or bust team.
The afc north is expecting to some new starters at linebacker this year. Who do you think will have the best year, Tavares Gooden, Lawrence Timmons or Rey Maualuga?
James Walker (4:14 PM)
Of those three I would say Lawrence Timmons.
What do you think will be the most critical part for a successful Cleveland offense in 2009?
James Walker (4:16 PM)
The Browns need to pick the right quarterback. They won't be an air-it-out team. But Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson have two different styles and Eric Mangini needs to figure out which works best for Cleveland.
James Walker (4:19 PM)
Contract year=concentration. Remember that, Blips. I think Brady Quinn will eventually win the job, too. That's why I'm picking high-single digits.
Erica (Seattle, Wa.)
What do you think are the chances of this year's Steelers team being better than the 08 version that won the Super Bowl?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
It's tough to be better than a Super Bowl winning team, Erica. A lot has to go right, such as lack of injuries. But the Steelers have a good chance to position themselves for a title run, probably better than any title team in the past four years.
Joe (Niagara Falls)
Where do the Bengals have the most Depth? Where could they have an injury and be able to deal with it?
James Walker (4:22 PM)
The Bengals this year would be ok in couple spots. They could take a hit (maybe two) at receiver and linebacker this season and not breakdown.
DARE I draft Jamal Lewis on my fantasy team this year? Think he will bounce back?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
I would take him as my third running back.
Can you see Benson as a 1400 yard back with 12 to 14 T.D.s in 2009?
James Walker (4:27 PM)
No, I cannot. Benson is not that type of player. He would need 400-plus carries, give or take. Plus the offensive line is in flux.
Does the Bengals season hinge on the offensive line and particulary the new center?
James Walker (4:29 PM)
That's a major part of it. But if I had to pick one spot it would be the health of quarterback Carson Palmer. We all saw what happened without him last season. But it all ties in together with how the offensive line protects for Palmer and helps him in the running game.
What are the chances the Bengals get Andre Smith signed before camp at Georgetown?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Not great. But time will tell. Maybe the Bengals will surprise us.
James, do you see Edwards being able to put up decent numbers, or will the conservative offense the Browns will run limit his opportunities?
James Walker (4:32 PM)
I don't expect Braylon Edwards to catch 16 touchdowns in Cleveland's new offense. But I don't expect him to play as poorly as he did last season either in a contract year. He will probably land somewhere in between.
Craig G. (Fairfield, CA)
Hey James. Who's the most interesting player or coach you've spoken with in the AFC North Division?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
There are a lot of them. I don't want to narrow it down. Everyone is different and interesting in their own way.
James Walker (4:36 PM)
Roy Williams brings a physical element that Cincinnati has been missing. He will be able to help in his own way. The key will be for Mike Zimmer to hide his flaws, such as pass coverage.
James Walker (4:38 PM)
Matt Mosley just called. He says hello to the AFC North readers. I have an idea this week that I want to talk to him about.
James Walker (4:39 PM)
Matt Mosley blogs for the NFC East, by the way.
Why do you expect Quinn to win the starting job?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
The safe, mistake-free offense fits Quinn's style of play. Derek Anderson is not at his best when he's conservative. He needs to use his arm strength and let it fly. It doesn't mean one is the better quarterback than the other. I just think Cleveland's system favors Quinn's strengths more.
Rich (Bellevue, WA)
Tell Mosley that we AFC North readers return his greeting.
James Walker (4:43 PM)
Ok. No problem. Wait until you see the idea I have in store. I think AFC North will like it. Hopefully Matt Mosley doesn't shy away from a challenge (hint, hint).
Niklas (Stockholm, Sweden)
Hey James, by drafting Oher it feels like the Ravens secured some really nice long term Tackle talent. But will the loss of Willie Anderson be noticed in the short term?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
The Ravens should be fine with Michael Oher. He's going to make rookie mistakes, but he also brings added athleticism that Anderson couldn't last year.
Hey James, love your blog. Obviously this new idea is a good one if you're being so vague about it. When are you going to drop it on us? Any preview or hint on the theme?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
No point in talking about it yet. I need to see if Matt Mosley is down with it first.
With all the new faces at CB for Baltimore who do you think will have the most impressive impact this year (Foxworth, Carr, or Webb)?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
The Ravens are paying CB Domonique Foxworth to be the most impactful. So if he isn't of the group you mentioned, something went wrong.
What are your thoughts on Whitworth as the Bengals LT? He is the best blocker and the leader of the OL, but he's been burnt by speed rushers in the past.
James Walker (4:50 PM)
It's no secret I felt the Bengals should have drafted a left tackle with the sixth overall pick. They're going to pay Andre Smith "left tackle money" anyway with that lofty draft status. Whit is a good player, and he's versatile. But is he a "franchise" left tackle? We will find out this year.
John (Buffalo, NY)
Does Joe Flacco fall flat on his face if asked to be a bigger part of the offense?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
Flacco going to be fine this year. I don't expect a sophomore slump. Many have doubts, but I believe he is a legit NFL quarterback.
Can Sweed fill the role vacated by Washington? (I remember some timely drops in the playoffs)
James Walker (4:56 PM)
Limas Sweed is going to be ok. He has the physical tools, and mentally he learned from last season. In my opinion, Sweed lost focus because he wasn't playing much. This happens sometimes to young players. Then, all of a sudden, he went from not playing to being thrown opportunties in the playoffs. It's hard to flip that switch, so Sweed is going to try and turn it on in Week 1.
Blips McGee (Pittsburgh)
Got any fantasy sleepers for the AFC North crowd?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
HI,Who do you think will be the Lions first victory and why?
James Walker (5:00 PM)
The Lions will win a game this year, but it may not come against the AFC North.
James Walker (5:01 PM)
Everyone, thanks for your time. Let's do it again next week.-JW