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)
Let's get right to it.
clark (home of the "Wire")
With Demetrius Williams looking pretty good ion the OTA's, do you think Clayton is on his way out?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Remember that Mark Clayton is more proven. So I wouldn't be so quick to make that statement. I've seen a lot of receivers perform in May without pads on and not show up in September when it counts. Williams has to prove he's not one of those players before he takes Clayton's or anyone else's spot.
With added receiving weapons for Flacco this year do you think the Ravens offense will offer more 4 and 5 Wide receiver plays?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
This isn't a video game, Kevin. There are not many teams who go five-wides often. I can see the Ravens spreading out to three or four wide at times. Maybe RB Ray Rice can motion out to become another threat at receiver.
what do steelers do with qb 2 start season
James Walker (4:05 PM)
It looks like Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon will compete for the starting job. Leftwich got all the first-team reps in minicamp, so you have to make him the early favorite. I don't expect much to be decided until later this summer.
How much longer can Ray Lewis and Ed Reed hold the Ravens defense together?
James Walker (4:07 PM)
I think Reed is really on a year-to-year basis at this point. The team expects him back. But every year from this point, Baltimore will be faced with Ed Reed retirement questions. Ray Lewis is healthy and playing well. So I expect him to be around for at least another 2-3 years.
Ryan (The Nati)
Do you think Andre Smith will have a good year? Will he start the first game and beyond?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
I wrote about Andre Smith today in the AFC North blog. He could really help the Bengals this season if he's as good as advertised. More foot surgery has slowed him this offseason. So you won't get a sense for where he really is in his second year until training camp once he has his legs under him.
Glad to see you're alive JW! Where have you been the last 10 days?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
Thanks, Mike. Last week I was at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. for a series of meetings and seminars. In the process, I had cpu issues last week. So I didn't post many blogs.
Joe S (Worthington, OH)
Who is your early pick for AFC North Rookie of the Year, offense and defense? I like Gresham and Kindle.
James Walker (4:16 PM)
Those are two really good picks. Jermaine Gresham should start right away for a Bengals' team that wants to pass more. I'm not sure what Sergio Kindle's role will be just yet. The Ravens are pretty stacked on D.
Andheez (Columbus, OH)
With Caldwell's decline in production and lack of after the catch ability, do you expect Shipley to immediately supplant him as the Bengals slot receiver?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
This is going to be a good training camp battle. Don't forget that Caldwell is young, too. He still has room to improve, and he's shown that ability to get better in his first two seasons. Shipley is a rookie and will have to learn the offense. So let's see what he has in training camp and minicamp first before we write off Caldwell.
Jordan (Green Bay)
Why do you have Andre Smith 'Stud or Dud' ranked 9.5 in terms of importance? He played sparingly last year and the line helped the team sweep the division and allow the 10th fewest sacks in the NFL all while having a near dominant rushing attack.
James Walker (4:22 PM)
There are several reasons, Jordan. First, Andre Smith was the No. 6 overall pick. He is making a ton of money for the Bengals. So naturally they need him to be a stud to justify what they're paying him. Second, the Bengals' pass protection was not as good as you think. You mention they didn't give up a ton of sacks. But I will respond by saying Cincinnati gave Cedric Benson the ball 25 times per game and when Carson Palmer did drop back, he took plenty of shots, particularly late in the season. If Cincinnati wants to pass more, the team will need to pass block better and longer. Smith could help.
Rich (Bellevue, WA)
So just what *can* the Steelers do to retain Woodley?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
The Steelers will have LaMarr Woodley for this year. He's under contract. Next year becomes dicey if Pittsburgh doesn't work out an extension. There is some talk around the league that there's a chance the new CBA will not have a franchise tag. Players don't like it, teams do. If that's the case, Woodley could hit the open market next year and teams could outbid Pittsburgh for his services.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
But the 30 percent rule this year means both sides would have to be very creative to work out a deal.
Justin (Pagosa Springs)
What is the status of Matt Roth for the Browns? Is he serious about holding out, and does he just have a really bad agent giving him "advice"?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
It's hard to say at this point, Justin. Roth wants to get paid. But I prefer to wait until players miss "mandatory" things before I take their holdouts serious. If Roth is willing to skip minicamp and training camp, then I would say he's pretty serious.
John (Des Moines)
Chances of the NFL adding the post-season OT rules to the regular season?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Not sure of the chances. But I think the NFL should have been uniform in doing it for every game if it wanted to make changes.
Is it outrageous to think that Emmanuel Sanders can have a "Mike Wallace" like effect in his rookie year?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Mike Wallace was a rarity in Pittsburgh. Usually rookies have to wait their turn, and I think the same will happen this year with Sanders. Hines Ward, Wallace and Antwaan Randle El likely will get most of the opportunties. I don't even think Pittsburgh will pass the football all that much until Ben Roethlisberger returns.
If (and I know that's a big "IF") the Steelers start out at 3-1 w/o Big Ben... would that not make them the team to beat in the AFCN?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
Slow down on the predictions. It's only May. I have some doubts the Steelers would start the year 3-1 without Roethlisberger to begin with.
Hey James, do you see any chance Quan Cosby not only keeps his job returning punts this year for the Bengals, but even makes the team?
James Walker (4:38 PM)
I think Cosby is on thin ice. His punt return ability always helps. But Shipley brings that to the team and he has to make the roster as a third-round pick. Some cuts at receiver could come down to Cosby, Jerome Simpson or both.
What did you think of the new draft format?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
It's good to serve the purpose the league had for it, which is to spread it out, get ratings and make money. It kept everyone's attention, so I don't think anyone could complain.
JW... Any thoughts on James Davis getting some playing time this year? With the addition of Hardesty is it fair to say that the staff in cleveland isnt comfortable with JDs progress as an nfl rb?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
Davis was good in the preseason but got hurt and didn't show much in the regular season. So I'm going to wait until I see him when it counts. One thing about the preseason is I think people get too excited and jump to conclusions with exhibition football.
James, a lot of people have been questioning Boldin's durability. Do you really not seeing him being able to last all season? Your blog is awesome, and I'm about to graduate college this saturday, can't wait!
James Walker (4:46 PM)
Congrats, Kevin, and welcome to the real world. You'll do fine. The injury concern is legit with Anquan Boldin. His playing style is very physical and fearless. So that tends to lead to injuries with him.
Sally (Shaker Heights)
How many games does Mangini need to win this year to keep his job?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
Good question, Sally. I don't think Mike Holmgren has an exact, magic number in his head per se. But if he did, it would be around eight victories in 2010.
What are the odds off another divisional sweep by anyone in the afc north? Whos got the best chance?
James Walker (4:50 PM)
It's happened every year since I've written the AFC North blog. The Steelers did it in 2008 and the Bengals did it in 2009. But the streak ends this year. The division is too balanced.
John Boy (Cincinnati)
Any chance Marvin gets an extension before the year starts?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
Yes, there's always a chance. But both sides still have some things to work out. From what I'm told, it's deeper than just years and money. So it's somewhat hard to quantify.
There is going to be a lot of pressure on 2nd year WRs Robiskie and MoMass -- what are your expectations?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
I don't think it's a strong group. So my expectations are not high for Cleveland's passing game this year. There's a chance that Jake Delhomme makes the WRs better. But Cleveland cannot have the same Jake Delhomme from last season. That would be a disaster.
Pa Walton (Walton Farm)
Which team has a better defense, in your opinion, the Bengals or the Ravens?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
We're going to get to that later in the week, Pa Walton. Don't overlook the Steelers' defense, as well.
Will Pouncey start?
James Walker (4:58 PM)
Maurkice Pouncey is on the second team right now. But he's projected to earn the starting job by September. He's been working a lot at guard, so that may be his initial position his rookie year.
James Walker (4:59 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time this week. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates.