- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's see what’s in the AFC East mailbag this week.
Daniel Tait from Leesburg, Ga., writes: I keep seeing Riley Reiff in mock drafts going to the Dolphins but the same guys are saying how deep tackle is this year. Why wouldn’t the Dolphins draft a stud DE especially going to a 4-3? Then, get a DT and RT.
James Walker: The Dolphins are hard to get a feel for because they can go in a lot of different directions, Daniel. I don’t think right tackle is the biggest need, but I wrote this week that I’m not fully against it. It’s a big need for the Dolphins and Jake Long is coming off a season-ending bicep injury. The Dolphins need a starter on the right side and potential insurance on the left.
Robert Romano from Florida writes: If the Dolphins won't be able to land Matt Flynn in free agency, would they be better of trading up in the draft for RG3, or take a chance on Peyton Manning?
Walker: Manning is the first option for Miami, Robert. He won’t be on the free-agent market for long, and the Dolphins can’t afford to wait by chasing other players. Once Manning goes off, then it’s time to look to other players like Flynn and Robert Griffin III.
Preston Smith from South Hadley, Ma., writes: Obviously, the Giants, Ravens and Steelers match up very well against the Patriots. What do the Patriots have to do in terms of personnel to beat these opponents?
Walker: Great question, Preston. It all starts with defense. New England is a offensively dominant team that is very beatable when it can’t score in bunches. The Patriots struggle most when they can’t score in the 30s, and that’s what the Giants, Ravens and Steelers do consistently.
Dan from New Jersey writes: What do you think of Shonn Greene? Do you think the Jets will acquire Trent Richardson? Do you think they would be a good combo?
Walker: I think Greene and Richardson would be a great combo, Dan. Unfortunately it’s not going to happen. Richardson is projected to be a top-10 pick. He could go in the top five. The Jets pick No. 16.
Daniel Rufer from New York, NY, writes: What should the Jets do about Jim Leonhard?
Walker: The Jets have to move on, Daniel. Unfortunately Leonhard suffered a major knee injury late in the season. He won’t be healthy in time for free agency and could be a question mark for the start of next season. The Jets can’t afford to wait on Leonhard. They have two big holes to fill at safety and I anticipate the draft being big for that.
Matt from Buffalo wants to know if the Buffalo Bills’ new offer to Steve Johnson is a sign they will hammer out a contract extension.
Walker: It’s a good step in the right direction, Matt. I still think it’s 50-50. If Johnson hits the open market, I think he’s a goner. Another team may be able to offer the type of money he’s looking for and that will take the Bills out of the running. I think Buffalo has a firm grasp on how much the team think Johnson is worth and its not willing to budge too much to overpay.
Joe from Pennsylvania writes: Do you think Chan Gailey will effectively find a way to get both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller involved in the Buffalo offense next season?
Walker: It’s a challenging problem, but a good problem to have, Joe. I’m confident in Gailey’s offensive mind. But one thing he struggled with last year was finding a way to get Spiller the ball when Jackson is on the field. Playing Spiller as a part-time receiver is not the answer. He’s a first-round pick at running back. I think Gailey needs to lower the workload for Jackson next season, especially coming off a season-ending injury, and get Spiller more carries.
Comment and complaint department
"Walker's Fab 40" generated plenty of debate this week. Here are the comments and complaints this week in the AFC East:
Dustin Ghoreishi from Kennewick, Wa., writes: Hey James, I have been following your AFC East top 40 breakdown and so far I am in agreement with the list. However, in my opinion Brandon Marshall should easily be a top five player. Not only is he one of the most dominant players in the division, he racked up stellar numbers without a consistent quarterback and inside a very vanilla offensive system. I just wanted to hear your comments on his season as a whole and where he ranks in the AFC East and NFL as a whole.
AJ from Niagara Falls, NY, writes: Stevie at 18? That's an insult. His first year where he is the main target and has back to back 1,000 yard seasons deserves top 10. Top 10 receiver in the league at that.
Walker: Dustin, Marshall is overlooked in general, but he‘s not the NFL’s best receiver. I think his No. 8 ranking is very fair for where he stands. He’s a No. 1 receiver but doesn’t have elite speed and drops a lot of passes. I’d like to see him play with a very good or elite quarterback. A.J., Johnson is a good receiver but he‘s not a Pro Bowler. It‘s debatable of whether he‘s a true No. 1 receiver. I think his ranking is far also. Sean, Revis is hands down the best cornerback in the NFL. The No. 2 corner back is not even close. Can you say the same about Welker and Rob Gronkowski being, hands down, the best at their positions with a distant No. 2?
Stephen from Buffalo, NY, writes: My question is a request for clarification: Over the year it was determined that Matt Moore was the second best quarterback in the AFCE and you support the idea that Moore is a average QB and think the Dolphins should pursue a franchise player at the position. Does this mean that you do not think Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mark Sanchez -- the third and fourth quarterbacks in the AFC East -- are the answers either? Do you think the Bills and Jets should be pursuing other options as well?
Walker: Good question, Stephen. I did the “Sanchez-Fitz-Moore Watch” so we won’t debate the point all offseason. Yes, Moore won it and therefore is the better quarterback. But that doesn’t mean Moore can get Miami to the Super Bowl. The Dolphins know that and are making it no secret that they are looking for someone who can. The difference with the Jets and Bills is they believe Sanchez and Fitzpatrick are their long-term solutions. New York and Buffalo believe their quarterbacks can win a championship. They’ve said it publicly and with their wallets by making them some of the highest-paid players on the team.
Tom from Indianapolis, writes: You said earlier that Ryan Fitzpatrick's broken ribs should not be taken into account when evaluating his season. In my opinion, that's very hard to say. Did you not evaluate Rob Gronkowski's performance in the Super Bowl differently given that he had a high ankle sprain? If not, then why aren't you writing about how he had a horrible game and "melted in the spotlight"? I'm not saying Fitzpatrick is a great quarterback, but I think his play was hindered by the broken ribs, and it at least deserves mentioning.
Walker: Fair point, Tom. Although I think comparing a one-game scenario in the Super Bowl to poor play in the second half of the season is different. My point was if Fitzpatrick wasn’t healthy enough to help the team he should have sat out. If he decides to play hurt, especially for a long stretch, he’s fair game. I think comparing Jake Long’s situation is more accurate. He had various injuries but never complained. Long also had arguably his worst seasons. Injuries did play a part in both cases.
DJ Eberle from Albany, NY, writes: How can you not consider the Bills to be one of the top teams going into next year? They are a couple pieces away, and the only reason they dropped off this season was because of injuries. When you lose nine players to the IR who are regular starters your team is going to have negative affects.
Walker: It all depends on what do you consider a “top team,” DJ. I consider a top team a potential division winner next season. It’s early and I’m not ready to make predictions. But I will say the Bills have a lot of work to do to win the AFC East. Therefore, I’m not ready to say they are a top team.
If you have additional questions, comments or even homer statements, feel free to send them to our AFC East inbox.