Chat with Jamison Hensley
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley stops by to chat.
Hensley joined ESPN.com in 2011 after covering the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun for 11 years. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he lives in the Baltimore area with his wife.
Send your questions now and join Hensley Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Michael Spivey (Beaumont, Texas)
Should pittsburgh continue starting a differnet RB after mendenhall gets healthy, seems like its not just the OL that preventing him from having a good game?
Jamison Hensley (2:02 PM)
Michael: I'm not in favor of benching Mendenhall because I think his slow start was mainly the result of poor blocking up front. But Redman and Dwyer were impressive in how they fought for every yard. Tomlin wouldn't commit to Mendenhall as his starter in his Tuesday presser but he said the running back would return to practice. That's the smart thing to do. The Steelers are in a situation where they can go with the running back who is playing the best. I say keep all of your options open.
Bryan Dearth (Franklin,ohio)
do u think that cincinnati bengals are a playoff contender
Jamison Hensley (2:05 PM)
Bryan: I think it's too early to say the Bengals are a playoff contender just yet. They are certainly better than many expected, including myself. Cincinnati was a four-win team last season and was starting a rookie quarterback this year. I thought it would be another four-win season.Marvin Lewis has done a great job of getting these players to come through in clutch situations. There is a confidence growing in there. These next two games -- against Indy and Seattle -- will allow the Bengals the opportunity to prove they can handle success and beat the teams they are supposed to beat.Let's wait until the midpoint of the season before making any grand declarations on the Bengals. But you have to be impressed so far.
Baltimore, Maryland [via mobile]
Do feel like the ravens are a top team in the AFC?
Jamison Hensley (2:08 PM)
While I cautioned to be a label on the Bengals (because there are so many unknowns considering last season), you can say that the Ravens are a top team in the AFC. How can you not? Baltimore has beaten the Steelers, Rams and Jets by an average of 25 points. The Ravens' only loss was at Tennessee, which could be chalked up to as a letdown game.The Ravens will also get stronger in the next couple of weeks. Wide receiver Lee Evans and guard Ben Grubbs should return after missing the past couple of games with injuries. First-round pick Jimmy Smith should also be back by the end of the month.
Jamison, can the Steelers O-Line improve this season? Will Max Starks help?
Jamison Hensley (2:13 PM)
Lamar: Honestly, the Steelers' offensive line can only improve because it couldn't get much worse from the performance in the first four games of the season. But you have to give that group credit for dominating a pretty good Titans defensive front on Sunday. For the first time this season, Pittsburgh's offensive line had an attitude about itself.The addition of Starks stabilizes the most important spot on the offensive line -- left tackle. The Steelers couldn't risk playing another game with Jonathan Scott there. I still see an up-and-down season for this line because the talent just isn't there.The Steelers used a first-round pick on their center and a second-rounder on their right tackle. They have to continue to invest top picks (one in the first three rounds) on the offensive line to improve the play up front.
Little getting a bump for Browns! Your thoughts on this and how will he perform? Thanks
Jamison Hensley (2:16 PM)
David: I really like Little. I think he has the tools to be a go-to receiver in this league. Little probably would have been a first-round pick if he didn't have all that baggage from college. He has really started coming on strong the past two games. It was a good vote of confidence to move him into the starting lineup. The biggest question with Little has been his maturity. It will be interesting to see how he handles adversity and the times when everything isn't going great for him as far as production.
Brad (Berkeley, CA)
Hey JH, really like what you are bringing to the blog. In terms of the Steelers defense, do you think that when some of the older players get healthy will they be full time starters or will there be more rotation and spelling?
Jamison Hensley (2:19 PM)
Brad: That might not have been the plan before, but I think the Steelers will be forced to do so. Ziggy Hood and Chris Hoke have been doing so well filling in on the defensive front that it would be crazy not to use them. And Larry Foote has already been rotating with James Farrior at inside linebacker.The Steelers had such a strong defense last season and they really only played with 12 players for the entire game. But that usually doesn't work. The best defenses are typically the ones that are the deepest ones, too.
Jamison, Is there still a doubt that Flacco might not be the franchise quaterback for baltimore
Jamison Hensley (2:24 PM)
Kenny: I laugh when people suggest that Flacco isn't a franchise quarterback. You can ask that question of Alex Smith, Matt Cassel and even young quarterbacks like Colt McCoy and Andy Dalton. None have the track record of Flacco.He's won a lot of games and a lot of road playoff games. He's already the franchise leader in most passing categories. He's tough and has a strong arm. There's no doubt that Flacco is a top-12 quarterback in the NFL. Yes, he's had an up-and-down season so far. But his history says that he'll bounce back and have a strong season.
How concerned should Browns fans truly be that the two wins came at the hands of winless teams, especially since we only have one more of those to play this year?
Jamison Hensley (2:28 PM)
Aaron: I don't think Browns fans should be concerned. But they have the right to be skeptical of this team because it has only beaten Indy and Miami.Cleveland can really go a long way to establish itself by playing well at Oakland on Sunday. The other measuring sticks coming in a few weeks with back-to-back road games at San Francisco and Houston.We'll know a lot more about this team by the end of the first week in November. I'm almost sold on this young defense, but the Browns offense has to become less one-dimensional.
Jamison: Thoughts on A.Brown! Ward in the mix alot last week so what role is brown going to play as season goes on? Going to be steady or off and on? Thanks
Jamison Hensley (2:30 PM)
Ethan: I see Antonio Brown being the Steelers' future No. 2 WR next to Mike Wallace. Before this last game, Brown was the most-targeted receiver on the team, which surprised me. But that shows the comfort level already between Brown and Ben Roethlisberger. So, Brown will remain the third option this year but he could move into the starting lineup next year.
In a few years do you see this bengal receiving core becoming one of the most lethal in the nfl?
Jamison Hensley (2:33 PM)
Jake: I'm not going to say the Bengals receiving group will be the most lethal in the NFL, but I will say wide receiver A.J. Green will be in the Pro Bowl within a couple of years. The only thing that would stop that from happening is inconsistent quarterback play. Green is a special talent.The Bengals also have one of the best young tight ends in Jermaine Gresham. He is becoming a dependable playmaker, especially in second half of games. But Cincinnati needs to develop a better second option at wide receiver. I'm not sure if Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell or Jordan Shipley will ever be that top-notch complimentary option.
BTSC (Columbia, SC)
How do you see the Browns using Hillis and the rushing attack moving forward?? Commiting to the run and using play action(much like the Packers did while teaching ARodge the ropes) could really help McCoy, IMO.
Jamison Hensley (2:37 PM)
So, this will be the last question for this chat session. I appreciate all the great questions and hope to do this at the same time next week.BTSC: It's essential that the Browns establish a ground game. That will take a lot of pressure off Colt McCoy. A young quarterback's best friend is a solid running game. The Browns showed last year that they can have success on offense with a power running game. By being so one-dimensional on offense, the Browns are only helping out the defense.