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 latest Miami Dolphins chat. There's a lot going on with the team in the thick of the playoff race. So let's begin.
Steve G (WV)
James, with all of the Steelers offensive lineman injuries, do you think Miami can just rush the front 4 the majority of the game so there are more defenders protecting against the pass, or do they blitz to confuse the lineman that don't normally play?
James Walker (3:01 PM)
I expect the Dolphins to continue doing what they are doing, which is mix it up. They should be able to get pressure with four rushers. Miami's D-line is a huge strength and Pittsburgh's O-line is an area of weakness. However, Ben Roethlisberger has a way of shrugging off defenders for big plays. I think he will make a couple "Wow" plays in this game where the Dolphins don't finish.
David (The Bahamas)
Are there any intriguing free agents out there for the Phins next year?
James Walker (3:03 PM)
Come on, David. Free agency? The Dolphins are in the playoff race right now. I know fans always want to look ahead and know what's next. But let's see if Miami makes the playoffs or falters first before we start thinking about next March.
James Walker (3:05 PM)
I will say the Dolphins' most important in-house free agent is CB Brent Grimes. He is a must-sign for Miami. I expect a long-term contract or at least a franchise tag. He's been a workhorse this year.
How were the Dolphins able to keep Tannehill upright during the last game with their depleted offensive line?
James Walker (3:07 PM)
It's part improved play and part scheme. The Dolphins did a good job of calling a balance of runs and pass that kept the Jets' pass-rush at bay. Miami was one step ahead most of the game. Another thing was the return of center Mike Pouncey, who is by far Miami's best lineman. He also helped with communication.
Hey James, the Dolphins haven't won in Pittsburgh since 1990. You think they finally put that streak to an end this Sunday?
James Walker (3:08 PM)
I will have my official prediction on ESPN.com Friday at noon with our Double Coverage. But I already know where I'm leaning on this one. You will see my prediction on the Dolphins' team page tomorrow.
Jeff (Niles, OH)
Great job with the Dolphins coverage! With Vernon emerging as a capable outside threat opposite Wake, is there even a shred of possibility that we could see Jordan on the field as well? Imagine if you lined Jordan up as an OLB bring him off the edge behind Vernon or Wake, someone is getting a sack...
James Walker (3:11 PM)
The Dolphins do have a "Speed" package that has Wake, Vernon and Jordan all on the field. However, Miami hasn't used it as much in the second half of the year. I don't think it's wise to work Jordan in as an OLB in December when the team is pushing for a playoff spot. That may be too risky. That sounds like something the Dolphins may want to ponder teaching in the offseason. We will see.
Julian (McAllen, Tx)
Do you see Mike Wallace having a big game against his former team this Sunday?
James Walker (3:13 PM)
I expect the Dolphins to want to spread the ball around like they did against the Jets. There will be opportunities for Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay if things go according to plan. However, I do expect at least a couple of deep shots to Wallace in this game to keep Pittsburgh's defense honest. Weather could be a deterrent.
Will D. Patterson be able to go in Pittsburgh?
James Walker (3:15 PM)
Dimitri Patterson had a limited practice Wednesday and is trying to come back. We may not know until game time. He missed the past two games and I think this groin injury is something he will have to manage the rest of the year.
James, looking into the match up against the Steelers which storylines leading to this game are you looking forward to: Antonio Brown/Brent Grimes, Tannehill/Big Ben, or Mike Wallace's Homecoming to Pittsburgh?
James Walker (3:17 PM)
Definitely Mike Wallace's homecoming and Antonio Brown vs. Brent Grimes. Those are two solid storylines that could determine the outcome of the game. I've covered many games in Heinz Field and know the Steelers are tough to beat there. It should be a fun game.
Andrew (Nashville, TN)
Do you see the Dolphins beating the Bills in Buffalo? I think their playoff run ends there.
James Walker (3:19 PM)
The Bills beat the Dolphins earlier this year and will be going for the sweep. So no game will be easy for Miami. The Dolphins have to take it week-to-week. If they lose to the Steelers and Patriots the next two games, the game in Buffalo won't mean much.
James Walker (3:21 PM)
By the way, if Miami doesn't make the playoffs, I think that Buffalo loss will be the one they regret most. The Dolphins had two weeks to prepare and had a home game against a quarterback (Thad Lewis) who recently came off the practice squad. There is no excuse for that one.
James, the media in Miami (esp. one particular writer) is very critical of the Dolphins' coaching this year and often points to poor coaching as the reason for the team's record. Do you agree?
James Walker (3:25 PM)
I've seen some bad things from Miami's coaching staff and some good things. For example, they deserve credit for keeping things together during this Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin scandal. The Dolphins could have easily fallen apart but they're in the playoff race. But there are several things schematically that haven't made much sense, either. Let's wait until the end of the year to see the entire body of work.
Tony Mogavero (Oakland NJ)
Great job on the coverage so far! What is the status on Daniel Thomas?
James Walker (3:28 PM)
Tony, I just put it together that it was you. What's going on my friend? Daniel Thomas won't play this week. But I saw him return to practice on Tuesday and work on the side with a trainer. Early reports indicated Thomas will be out for the rest of the year. I'm not sure that's the case. I think the Dolphins will work with him for another couple weeks to see how he progresses.
Rod Polidor (Deerfield beach, FL)
If Miami makes the playoffs what team would Miami be most fit for Miami to upset?
James Walker (3:31 PM)
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Rod. The Dolphins have A LOT of work to get into the playoffs. I think a 3-1 finish provides a chance. Sunday in Pittsburgh will be tough. But Miami has beaten Cincinnati and Indianapolis this year already. I think the Dolphins match up well, player for player, with either team. It's all about execution in the playoffs. But I think Miami's players and coaches would like their chances against both clubs.
Who do you see as the most important potential FA Miami needs to resign,Grimes,Clemens or Soliai?
James Walker (3:32 PM)
It's Brent Grimes and it's not even close. He's been a beast this year. I like Paul Soliai, as well, and I think the Dolphins should re-sign him over Randy Starks.
Ryan (Charleston, SC)
Do you think Tanehill has done enough to be the starter next year, or do these last four games play a lot into that decision?
James Walker (3:34 PM)
Unless there is a head-coaching change, I don't see a scenario where Ryan Tannehill isn't the quarterback next year. It will be an important third year for Tannehill and Philbin. Now, if the NFL investigation is explosive and heads roll, all bets are off. Owner Stephen Ross could react in a variety of ways.
Justin G (Bay Area)
James with John Jerry having a concussion and lack of o line depth is there any chance the dolphins move incognito back on the 53 man roster after his extended suspension in case of injuries?
James Walker (3:36 PM)
The locker room wants Richie Incognito back. But I just don't think the owner and coach wants anything to do with that level of distraction. Incognito is a guard. He's not that crucial to winning or losing games. Why would Miami bring back the media firestorm its had for the past month?
Shaun (Athens, OH)
Even after 450+ yards vs the Jets, the Dolphins still have yet to score over 27 points this year. While I think this weekends game will be a low scoring affair, why can't Miami put points on the board? What needs to change?
James Walker (3:39 PM)
They lack aggressiveness and they settle for a lot of field goals. The Dolphins can go through stretches where they move the ball just fine. But they stall a lot when it matters and settles for kicks. If Miami can score more touchdowns, it can reach 30 points. But I don't see that happening this week.
Do you see the Dolphins moving away from the running back committee and letting Lamar Miller take the lead back role? He seems to do a lot better when he does not have to share the carries.
James Walker (3:44 PM)
Yes, but out of necessity. The Dolphins don't have the same level of confidence in Mike Gillislee or Marcus Thigpen that they have in Daniel Thomas. So Lamar Miller will get a bigger share of the carries. It won't be 50-50 anymore unless Thomas eventually returns from his ankle injury.
Leia (Theed, Naboo)
What percentages do you give the dolphins to make the playoffs?I say 0%.
James Walker (3:49 PM)
It's definitely not zero, not at 6-6. Only the Ravens have a better inside track because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. I'm not good at percentages but I know Miami must go at least 3-1 the rest of the way to have a chance. Lose Sunday and I don't see that happening.
How do you see Wallace being used against his former team?
James Walker (3:52 PM)
The Dolphins will definitely take their shots with Mike Wallace. Pittsburgh's secondary is old and slow by NFL standards. Wallace is the kind of player who can run right by WIlliam Gay, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. But I expect Miami to spread the ball around to others, as well, similar to the Jets game.
jim (opa-locka fl)
Miami needs to find someone who is a talent evaluator to help Philbin get the kind of players he needs, imo Ireland is not a football guy and just does what people tell him?
James Walker (3:53 PM)
I don't know what you mean by "does what people tell him." Jeff Ireland is the GM and calls the shots on personnel in Miami. He is on the hot seat and probably needs a hot finish more than anyone with the Dolphins.
Jake (London, UK)
I would love the Dolphins to play here in London again! Any knowledge if they will be scheduled there next season?
James Walker (3:55 PM)
Jake, I thought you would've heard by now. Miami is coming back out there next year to play the Oakland Raiders in Week 4. It should be a fun trip across the pond. I'm looking forward to it. Get your ticket.
Tory (Miami FL)
I hope this phase of the Dolphins growing pains is in the past but do you see Ross giving up on this Front Office or giving them 1 more year?
James Walker (3:56 PM)
A lot depends on how the Dolphins finish and the NFL investigation with Ted Wells. Things are still very much fluid.
Steve G (WV)
Kickers have a hard time in Pittsburgh. Do u think that will play a big factor on Sunday?
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Good point, Steve. I've covered many games where kickers struggled at Heinz Field with the wind and the surface. It's a strange place to kick. Caleb Sturgis also has missed his share of field goals as a rookie. That's certainly something to watch.
James Walker (4:01 PM)
Everyone, thank you for the good questions. Be sure to check out ESPN.com's Dolphins page and follow me on Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.