Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker drops by to chat and answer all of your Dolphins questions.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. A Temple graduate and Hyattsville, Md., native who lives in Miami, Walker covered the AFC East for ESPN.com before moving to the Dolphins beat.
Send your questions now and join Walker Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
James Walker (3:00 PM)
Welcome to our Miami Dolphins pre-game chat. Miami will host the Bengals tonight at 8:25 p.m. ET. Plenty to discuss. So let's get started.
Justin (Miami) [via mobile]
James, if the Dolphins get their act together and win to tonight, can they still be in the Wildcard Race?
James Walker (3:02 PM)
Absolutely, Justin. That is the intriguing thing about tonight's game for Miami. Despite all the inner turmoil and losing, the Dolphins are right back in the wild-card race if they improve to 4-4. This is a HUGE swing game for Miami. I think 3-5 could end its season.
Gildo kennett square PA [via mobile]
Hey James if the dolphins make a change at gm and the head coaches what are chances that tannehill is starter in 2014?
James Walker (3:03 PM)
It's too early for all of these questions, Gildo. The Dolphins aren't at the halfway point yet. There are some troubling issues lately. But let's wait until this game plays out at least to see how the team reacts.
JR (Tampa Bay)
I'd like to ask how can this season get any worse, but too many possibilities come to mind. Since I don't drink, when will trick or treating end so I can drown my miseries in leftover candy? Happy Halloween everyone.
James Walker (3:05 PM)
JR, it can get worse. You live in Tampa. Have you seen the year the Buccaneers are having? The Dolphins aren't at that point. But they do have a lot of issues right now. Miami needs to win, first and foremost. That will solve a lot of issues.
docth20000 [via mobile]
Do u think mia will open up the playbook tonight throw in a few new wrinkles and stop being predictable with the same plays and change the snap count go-go and go u me and everyone knows what coming just from that philbin says it doesn't tip anything to the other team but CMON MAN
James Walker (3:07 PM)
I think the most discouraging thing about the bye week is not enough changed on offense. The performance in Buffalo was far from what Dolphins fans expected coming off two weeks of preparation. Miami is on a short week, so I don't expect sweeping changes. The team didn't have much practice time.
Are the Dolphins in the market for more tackles. With Martin out having Clabo back out there scares me
James Walker (3:09 PM)
The trade deadline has come and gone for the year and Miami already made its move for Bryant McKinnie. This isn't fantasy football. Teams do not trade for players every week. The Dolphins are stuck with what they have for the rest of the year. Coaches need to coach better, and players need to play better.
Ben (Cape Canaveral FL)
I think Tannehill shares the blame for the offensive struggles. However, I think that Sherman is putting him in a position to fail rather than Succeed--Who do you blame more for the offensive troubles: Tanny, Sherman or Ireland?
James Walker (3:10 PM)
Tough question. I think they have all played a role in Miami's four-game losing streak. If I were to rank blame, I would go (1) O-line, (2) Mike Sherman, (3) Jeff Ireland and (4) Ryan Tannehill.
steve ambrose (Asheville, NC)
Loved Egnew emerging. Hope Sherman's diet isn't aluminum foil.ps. know any team with 3-5 extra starting OL?
James Walker (3:12 PM)
Good observation about Michael Egnew. It kind of a shame, because his improvement is a really good story. But that's not the focus of the team right now with all that's going on.
James Walker (3:12 PM)
As I mentioned earlier, Hotsauce, the trade deadline has come and gone. Only street free agents the rest of the year, and that's not going to fix things.
James Walker (3:14 PM)
Random thought since I'm on this topic: The Dolphins have A LOT of developmental offensive linemen. But none of them are developing. The Dolphins have been coaching up Will Yeatman, for example, for three seasons. Either he's going to get it by now or he's not. Danny Watkins is a former first-round pick who can't even make the active roster on gamedays. Why isn't the coaching staff developing Watkins properly?
Will Mike Sherman be fired if the Dolphins loose today?
James Walker (3:16 PM)
I don't want to get too much into potential firings and things like that. There is a game tonight. A lot can change with a win. I will say Mike Sherman is a good friend of head coach Joe Philbin, and the two have a strong relationship. In my opinion, it will be hard for Philbin to fire his friend, and he will hold onto Sherman as long as he can.
Ryan (East Bay CA)
Hate to blame refs but last week dolphins had 3 bad call against them that could not overcome , the pass interference on Jimmy wilson ,the def holding on Patterson and the illegal batting of the fumble , which Vernon was clearly trying to recover...
James Walker (3:19 PM)
I agree with you, Ryan. The Dolphins got the short end on two (maybe three) bad calls. But the Dolphins gave up 24 unanswered points in the second half. They have to take responsibility for their poor performance.
Can Dion Jordan block? Play T? If your answer is no, we drafted the wrong guy.
James Walker (3:22 PM)
Not playing Dion Jordan has been a mystery. He usually makes a couple of "wow" plays when he's on the field. I understand the OT issue, especially now. But I think Jordan can be a terrific player. He just needs playing time.
Gil (Jacksonville) [via mobile]
Why isn't Philbin more involved in calling plays? The NFL has a short season and if something's broke, you've got to fix it don't you agree?
James Walker (3:24 PM)
Joe Philbin hired Mike Sherman to call plays. Philbin is doing his role as a head coach and granted his coordinators freedom to call plays. As I mentioned, the two have a strong relationship. In my opinion, it will be hard for Philbin to fire or demote Sherman.
sean (757) [via mobile]
Im already looking forward to the draft. I know thats sad. What direction would you go with your first round pick?
James Walker (3:25 PM)
C'mon, Sean. That's pretty sad. If Miami wins tonight, the team is 4-4 and right back in the wild-card hunt.
James Walker (3:25 PM)
Let the season play out.
What do the Dolphins have to do in order to make the most of their running game tonight? I think both backs have potential, but should they continue to share the playing time between the two or try committing to one?
James Walker (3:27 PM)
The Bengals are a physical defense. They play a tough brand of football in the AFC North, and I know that first hand. I covered those teams a few years ago. The Bengals aren't the Patriots. Miami will not be able to just run over Cincinnati's defense. But the Dolphins must still stay committed to the run to keep the defense honest.
Who is going to step up and supplement the production Brandon Gibson was providing?
James Walker (3:29 PM)
Well, Rishard Matthews will fill Brandon Gibson's role in the slot. They are two different kind of players. Gibson is a technician who uses smarts, savvy and good routes to get open. He did a good job. Matthews is a young player with more strength and athleticism. It's different styles.
James Walker (3:30 PM)
I talked with Matthews this week and he's excited about the opportunity. He's a fearless player who is not afraid to go over the middle and make plays.
before the season started i thought ryan was are guy for qb! at this point not so sure! what your take?
James Walker (3:32 PM)
The jury is still out, Mark. There are a lot of things I like about Ryan Tannehill and a few things I don't like. He must improve in those weak areas (ball security, pocket presence, better deep ball) in order to take the next step and become a legit franchise quarterback. Time will tell if he can.
Mike (Cincinnati) [via mobile]
Can the Dolphins secondary be effective against a red hot Andy Dalton? Nolan Carol has consistently been getting burned while Patterson can't seem to stay healthy!
James Walker (3:35 PM)
Nolan Carroll isn't getting much playing time anymore, if last week was any indication. Carroll got just eight snaps last week. Unfortunately, Tom Brady is so smart that as soon as he saw Carroll, Brady beat him for a touchdown throw.
James Walker (3:35 PM)
I want to see if Nolan Carroll plays more tonight. He's tries hard. But teams recognize when he's on the field and throw at him a lot.
sean (757) [via mobile]
Cmon James. Lets be real. Did you see last week's game between the jets and Bengals? We can't beat the bills coming off a bye week
James Walker (3:37 PM)
I picked the Bengals to beat the Dolphins tonight, 20-17. The NFL is a week-to-week league. Obviously the distractions could be an issue or the team could ban together. We will see tonight. I will be heading to the game soon after this chat. Be sure to check out ESPN.com's Dolphins blog throughout the night.
It seems like no matter how the season goes from here it is hard to imagine Jeff Ireland back. Miami isn't even activating their 2nd, 2 3rds and 5th round pick from this draft. Michael Egnew is a success compared to this draft.
James Walker (3:40 PM)
As I mentioned earlier, it's too early for me to speculate on jobs. I'm going to wait at least a little more before I start to examine that. However, it should be noted that Jeff Ireland got a contract extension in the offseason. That lets you know what owner Stephen Ross thought of Ireland heading into the year. Of course, things can sour if the Dolphins continue to flop.
Where are Jamar Taylor and Will Davis? They can't be worse than Carroll. And please don't say they are rookies and they are trying to ease them in...
James Walker (3:43 PM)
One thing that I notice about this coaching staff is they get cold on players really fast. Jamar Taylor got a chance to play some reps a few weeks ago and got beat a couple times. Jimmy Graham had a big TD against Taylor in the New Orleans Saints game. That was his shot. Dimitri Patterson came back and Taylor has been inactives. Will Davis had a good preseason and training camp. But a toe injury put him in the back of the line.
James Walker (3:46 PM)
By the way, what are your predictions for tonight's game? I'm curious to hear it.
Hi James. Considering the Cincy pass rush and the Fins well-documented OL issues, does it make sense to focus on the short passing game, at least initially, in an effort to a) establish a rhythm for Tannehill b) open up some running lanes, and c) provide an opportunity for some play action, down the field throws to Wallace and perhaps Clay?
James Walker (3:49 PM)
All good suggestions, Alex. Actually, the Dolphins and Bengals match up well. It's just one team (Bengals) is playing so much better than the other (Dolphins). As I mentioned early, I picked the Bengals. Let's see what happens.
sean (757) [via mobile]
I'm picking the dolphins. I believe we can stop green and hopefully stop the tight ends. If we do that I think we can pull it off
James Walker (3:50 PM)
Interesting prediction. A win would put Miami right back in the thick of things at the midpoint of the season.
Joby (Boston, MA)
It seems defense has regressed from last year, even with all the moves Ireland made in the off-season, with the exception of Brent Grimes. What is your take?
James Walker (3:52 PM)
I wouldn't go that far this early. The Dolphins were 7-9 last year and had a lot of issues. Right now they are 3-4, which is about the same pace. I definitely don't think this roster is worse than last year's team. The Dolphins are simple underachieving.
Carl (Homestead, FL)
Is it my imagination or does it seem like the coaching staff is incapable of changing what's not working during the course of a game?
James Walker (3:56 PM)
Adjustments are not a strongpoint for this coaching staff. The Dolphins have not eben good in the third quarters this year, and that's a strong indication of coaching. It's the job of Joe Philbin and his staff to get the players ready, game plan and make adjustments.
I kind of like the Fins in this one, James. I'm not at all convinced that Dalton can or will continue to play at this level; the metrics strongly suggest that he's due for a regression. I also think playing at home after a bad loss will motivate this squad.
James Walker (3:57 PM)
There's certainly a case to make for all those things. But the Bengals are playing their best football and the Dolphins are playing their worst football. Can that change on a short week?
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks for the questions. Remember to check out my Dolphins blog on ESPN.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL. Enjoy the game tonight.