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)
Greetings. I hope everyone is having a good week. I'm here for the next hour or so to answer all your AFC North questions.
James, do you think that the Baltimore Ravens can still have the dominant defense that has help make them one of the toughest teams in the league while dealing with aging veterans and rookies? Is there too much of an age gap for the defense to gel and keep a spot in the top ten in 2011?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
I've been hearing the age excuse the past several years and it hasn't slowed the Ravens yet. So until then, I'm going to assume they will be stout again. The addition of Jimmy Smith should help, because the team hasn't had a shutdown corner in a couple years. That should add a new wrinkle/luxury Baltimore didn't have last year.
What's going to happen to Ochocinco/Johnson? He hasn't made quite as much noise as Palmer about wanting out of Cincinnati, but he DOES want out. Is his situation different than Palmer's, or does management play hardball with him, as well?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
Two very different situations, with the exception that both are unhappy. Ochocinco most likely will get his wish, because he is overpaid ($6 million) based on his production and the team drafted a player at No. 4 overall to replace him. The Bengals don't want to let go of Palmer and it sounds like they will wait and see if he retires.
Michael H (San Antonio)
Considering the success rates of draft picks, wouldn't the Browns want to keep Vickers on roster for at least another year before staking everything on a rookie FB?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
The Browns can't keep two roster spots open for fullbacks if they want to run a West Coast offense. They need tight ends and receivers in bunches. Plus, Vickers is one of the best at his position and should command a decent amount of money in free agency. Owen Marecic is younger, cheaper, and according to the Browns' thinking, a better fit.
outside ohio what s the state that have more cleveland fans in the united states and which country also have the more number of cleveland fans thanks
James Walker (4:09 PM)
Hmm. That's real tough to answer. I have no statistical backing to what I'm about to say. But in my experience traveling to road games, I've seen a lot of Browns fans in warm-weather cities like Phoenix, Miami, Jacksonville, and maybe Oakland/SF. Many native Clevelanders have left the city for career opportunities, better weather, etc.
Any AFCN team that you see having a dramatic rise or fall this season? Personally, I think the Steelers are playing with fire by not getting a lot younger on defense...
James Walker (4:11 PM)
I don't think there will be a dramatic rise or fall from any team. Barring major injuries, I think you're going to see much of the same in 2011 where the Ravens and Steelers are battling for the division title and the Browns and Bengals battling to stay out the basement. The two Ohio teams are both in rebuilding years.
Chas Wagner (Brooklyn, NY)
What will Ike Taylor's legacy be if he leaves the Steelers this off-season?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
That's not really for me to decide. But I will remember him as a solid corner for the Steelers who played a big part in two Super Bowl-winning teams. Taylor wasn't an elite corner, but he did his job well for a long period of time.
kevin (north carolina)
do you think the steelers will improve they're secondary this year. i think they need a legitimate shut down corner to go with ike taylor .
James Walker (4:16 PM)
I think the Steelers missed their chance to really improve their secondary in the draft. A first- or second-round pick there would have gone a long way. Re-signing Taylor would just keep things status quo, and I don't see the team going out and getting a big name in free agency. (Don't say that player from Oakland, please.)
Ever go to any AFC North Baseball games? (Orioles, Reds, Indians, or Pirates)
James Walker (4:18 PM)
I'm not really a big baseball guy. But I've been in every "AFC North baseball" stadium except Pittsburgh's, I believe.
James Walker (4:18 PM)
I drive and walk past it on the way to Heinz Field all the time, though. That probably doesn't count.
Tommy Gunnz (Northern Cambria, PA)
A few of my friends think there's a chance of Braylon Edwards returning to Cleveland. They think so because of the new regime. Please squash this argument for JW.
James Walker (4:21 PM)
That is not happening, Tommy. Braylon did not like his time at all in Cleveland and was doing backflips after he got out. Cleveland is probably the last place he wants to re-sign.
Have any AFC North teams been putting together informal practice sessions? (akin to what Drew Brees, Josh Freeman, etc. are doing)
James Walker (4:23 PM)
Every AFC North team now has had at least one session, with Baltimore getting its practices underway today. Ben Roethlisberger had one, I believe. Colt McCoy has had two and Jordan Palmer has been throwing to guys in California and there's been some workouts in Cincinnati.
Do you think it was wise for the Browns not to draft a QB to back-up or compete with McCoy?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
I don't think it's a huge deal. The Browns gave Seneca Wallace a three-year contract extension in the offseason. So he was going to be the No. 2 no matter who the Browns drafted. The biggest question is why is Jake Delhomme still on the roster if he's the No. 3 quarterback?
Kevin R (Gaithersburg, MD)
What is your favorite AFCN city to visit for covering home games?
James Walker (4:27 PM)
I like all the AFC North cities, Kevin :-)
Michael H (San Antonio)
With the Indians doing a remake of Major League and the Cavs scoring big with their draft lottery, how do you feel about the Browns following suit and making their own big splash for Cleveland?
James Walker (4:29 PM)
Maybe the bad luck is turning around, Michael. The NFL, more than any other league, is about parity. So the Browns have a shot just as much as anyone else.
if you are a steelers fan whose jersey do you get and it has to be a player on the current roster?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
I'm not a Steelers fan so I can't even think on those terms, Nick.
brandon (columbus, OH)
Does Limas Sweed finally realize his potential this year? Or does he get cut?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
It's going to be a numbers game for Sweed. There are a lot of people ahead of him where he simply has to fight for a roster spot first. After that, Sweed may have to wait his turn through injury to get another opporunity. The others ahead of him are more trustworthy.
What are the chances Jah Reid starts at Right Tackle for the Ravens in 2011?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
Too early to say. It depends on what happens to Jared Gaither and free agency. Right now, Reid is the starter. But if Gaither returns or the Ravens find a better veteran, that person will be the starter.
Indy Mike (Indianapolis)
In answer to Jaime from Mexico's question: Florida had over 25 Browns Backers Clubs, The most of any state other than Ohio.
James Walker (4:36 PM)
There you go, Jaime.
how much room in cap space do the steelers have?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Unlimited. Currently, there is no cap. Once a new CBA is reached and they settle on a cap number (if there is a cap), I will get back to you.
Kovacs (Santa Monica)
What do you think of Haden (and his teammates that he's now getting to come along) showing up at Cavs and Tribe games. Pretty cool imo
James Walker (4:40 PM)
There's nothing wrong with teams in the same city showing support for one another. I think it's a good thing. Haden pleaded for LeBron James to stay in Cleveland in when Haden was drafted. But James didn't listen. Haden still remained a Cavs fan.
Eric (on the train, Baltimore)
Any real value to these player-organized practices?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
They definitely can't hurt. I think it's most important for QBs and WRs to get their timing down, especially if you have a new offense and/or young players. There's no contact in minicamps and offseason workouts anyway. So most of those practices were used to improve timing and execution.
Michael H (San Antonio)
If there's no cap in the new CBA, which AFCN teams has the most advantage with buying power?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
It's way too early to speculate. But if the cap disappeared longterm, I think the Ravens and Browns would spend the most money on free agents in the division.
The Browns seem to have fans all over the place. I worked in a restaurant in Iowa with a guy from Armenia who was like the biggest Browns fan in the world.
James Walker (4:47 PM)
The Browns have a great fanbase. No doubt about it. The team has hurt a lot of people the past dozen years. I've seen it close up.
James Walker (4:48 PM)
One time I saw Jerry "The King" Lawler at Browns practice and was shocked. He's from Memphis, I believe, and was a Browns fan.
Do you think Cleveland will go out and get a veteran quarterback, or stay with Mccoy
James Walker (4:49 PM)
Colt McCoy is their guy, Colin. The Browns are riding with Colt this year to see what he can do.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
JW, I don't get the Palmer situation, from both angles. From Palmer's angle, the Bengals brought in Benson, brought in T.O., drafted a 1st round TE, and generally have tried to bring talent in on O. I dont think the problem is the Bengal's organization, Palmer should look at himself. From Mike Brown's prespective, I understand how he dealt with 85, but I dont get it with Palmer, who has not ever been a disruption to the team. From a long term strategy, it makes absolute sense to trade Palmer & zero sense to force him to retire. Thoughts?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
There's no doubt in my mind the Bengals should trade Carson Palmer as long as the value is high, which seems to be the case. But the Bengals rarely follow convention, so I don't expect them to do it. This whole idea of proving a point to one unhappy player to prevent others from fleeing is overrated. I think any team should always do what's best for the organization.
Of all the quarterbacks in the AFCN, who do you think is the best line-dancer?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
Believe it or not, I have been told Colt McCoy can dance a little. I haven't seen it with my own eyes, but I would go with Colt.
Do you think the concerns about Colt McCoy's arm strength should be a legitimate issue for the Browns given they will be running the West Coast Offense?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
Yes, I think it is a legitimate question because of where the Browns play. Cleveland is not only a cold-weather city. But where the stadium is placed right by the lake, the winds are very strong in the winter. You can't overlook that. The only QB that had a Pro Bowl season in Cleveland since 1999 was Derek Anderson (2007), who had a lot of faults but certainly had a strong arm.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Thanks again for the questions, everyone. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates on the division.