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Saturday, February 11, 2012
Walker's weekend mailbag

By James Walker

We're back to doing mailbags in the AFC East blog. A lot of people have questions about the direction of the division this offseason.

So let's dig in.

Vinnie from Tampa, Fla., writes: I was wondering what your prediction will be for the Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes dilemma and how you think both players will produce next season?

James Walker: We made this topic our latest edition of "Poll Friday," Vinnie. I think it's one of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason. Winning fixes nearly everything, and I think that's the case here. If Sanchez and Holmes both play well and New York is winning, I don't anticipate any issues. The pair were fine in 2010. But more losing could lead to more fireworks. New York is a high-pressure market and the Jets always have playoff expectations. Both Sanchez and Holmes will put on a good face early. But I think there will always be an underlying current waiting to boil over if the team doesn't perform.

Scott from Fairfield, Conn., writes: Just wondering what you think the right moves are at quarterback and running back for the Jets?

Walker: Scott, I wrote during the final regular-season game that the Jets had no choice other than to stick with Sanchez for at least one more season. The Jets invested too much money in him not to give him a fourth year. The best New York can do is sign a veteran to push Sanchez and try to get the best out of him. One of the biggest criticisms in New York is Sanchez was given the job early and no one was ever there to challenge him. I think a quarterback like Chad Henne is the type of player to do that. He’s a favorite of new Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and would be comfortable in his offense. I know Jets fans are probably rolling their eyes at that, but Henne is a much better backup option than Mark Brunell.

Levi from West Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Looking at the free agency this offseason, how do you feel about the New England Patriots acquiring receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive end Robert Mathis?

Walker: Both are good players, Levi. But I don’t see either as a good fit for New England. The Patriots need deep speed at receiver for quarterback Tom Brady. We saw that hole all last season and in the Super Bowl. New England thought Chad Ochocinco could be that guy, but he wasn’t. Wayne can’t be a deep threat for the Patriots, either. Mathis is very good at getting to the quarterback, and New England could use another pass-rusher. But the Patriots play a ton of 3-4 on defense and Mathis is a conventional 4-3 defensive end. It’s not a good fit.

Kevin Faison from Wilmington, Del., writes: Do you think it's time for Bill Belichick to move on as head coach?

Walker: Kevin, you Patriots fans are so spoiled. Belichick went 14-2 and 13-3 the past two years. He took New England to the Super Bowl last week and suffered a close loss. There is nothing to suggest Belichick is washed up. He still is arguably the best coach in the NFL. I understand Patriots fans have a “Super Bowl or bust” mentality. But that doesn’t mean you fire everyone for losing in the championship.

David from Boca Raton, Fla., writes: Do you see Miami signing Peyton Manning AND trading up to draft RG3 and have him sit for a year or two learning from one of the best QBs in the league?

Walker: Not happening, David. In fact, I think it’s time for Dolphins fans to give up the idea of landing Robert Griffin III. It’s just not likely. Too many teams want him and the Dolphins are too high in the draft at No. 8 or No. 9. Free agency is first, and that’s where the Dolphins will attack. If Manning is available, Miami will certainly be in the mix. If not, Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn will be an unrestricted free agent. That should be Miami’s focus.

Nick from Buffalo writes: Do you expect the Bills to make a splash in free agency?

Walker: Tricky question, Nick. My expectation is that Buffalo will spend to the cap, which is what general manager Buddy Nix said after the season. I’m taking the Bills at their word. However, a “splash” suggests the Bills will be able to get some big names to come to Buffalo, and that’s where it gets difficult. Of course I think players like Mario Williams and Robert Mathis would be great upgrades. But can the Bills convince those great players to come to Buffalo over other franchises and cities? It’s going to be a tough sell. The top players are going to have numerous offers. That’s how free agency works. And if the money is equal, the harsh reality is Buffalo will be at the bottom of the list.

Dave from Kenmore, N.Y., writes: How does the NFL determine compensatory draft picks, and do you feel more has to be done to help small market teams and non-performing teams to yield more high picks in the draft?

Walker: There’s really no exact science to it, but compensatory picks are determined by the quality of free agents lost the previous year. The league decides it based on production of in the previous season. As far as helping small-market or nonperforming teams, I think the NFL is great. The worst teams get the best draft picks, and every team -- big market or small market -- works with the same salary cap. There is no excuse not to compete. Pittsburgh is a small market, but has more Super Bowl rings than any team. Green Bay is a small market and won a Super Bowl last year. The primary reasons teams don’t perform well are due to poor scouting and personnel and coaching decisions. It’s not the league's fault teams like Buffalo and Cleveland can't figure it out.

Comment and complaint department

Here are the comment and complaints this week in the AFC East:

Dustin from Anniston, Ala., writes: Do you really see all the talk about Matt Flynn being justified? I mean, he had one good game in a meaningless game. It might as well been preseason. I think there's a reason he hasn't played much over 4 years. He has played enough to show consistency. Less than 100 pass attempts over 4 years? Please don't do it Miami!

Walker: I’m asked this a lot and the true answer is you don’t know for sure -- no one does. Flynn can’t be evaluated as a full-time starter until he’s…a full-time starter. I say this all the time: Is Flynn another Kevin Kolb or another Matt Schaub? That is the risk teams have to take. However, I do know what Matt Moore is: He’s a good backup and an average starter. Can you go 8-8 with Matt Moore as your franchise quarterback? Probably. But unless 8-8 is your goal every year, then you have to search for an upgrade who can get you to the next level.

Spencer from Long Island writes: Can you please explain why the Jets do not try to obtain a premier running back. They want their priority to be their rushing attack and Shonn Greene is a solid backup back in my opinion. He has been very inconsistent and I always notice he looked like he's worn down at the end of the year. Please shed some light.

Walker: That’s a fair complaint, Spencer. You can’t be ground-and-pound with an inconsistent running back. Greene, in my opinion, is better as a complementary player than a feature back. He had one of the most underwhelming 1,000-yard seasons that I can remember. Green had just two 100-yard games and six with fewer than 60 yards. Greene gets hurt. He doesn’t break as many tackles as a running back his size should. He’s not terribly athletic. It’s not all on Greene, though. New York’s offensive line and quarterback deserve some of the blame.

Tom L. from Southwest Ranches, Fla., writes: What do you think of the Bills organization keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick’s rib injury so secret. He took an unnecessary beating from the fans and media over his play after the injury. Didn't have to go down like that.

Walker: It doesn’t matter to me. Football is a tough game, and I commend Fitzpatrick for not making excuses. But if you’re healthy enough to play, it’s fair game to grade your performance. Fitzpatrick didn’t play well in the second half of the season. That is a fact. If he chose to play at 75 percent or 95 percent doesn‘t concern me. If Fitzpatrick was too injured to help the team in any of these games, he should have sat out.

Rick Arritola from Atlanta, Ga., writes: James, I haven't seen any comments by you regarding your miscalculation of your Patriot's victory in SB 46. How's the taste of Crow? Has reality finally set in? Next time learn from history, so you don't make foolish predictions. The Giants own Brady and the Patriots. Deja Vu!

Walker: Rick, where you been? Owning up to my Patriots prediction was one of the first things I did this week. Here it is.

Andrew Stitzer from Poway, Calif., writes: James, we know there is usually a 2-3 team turnover in each conference in terms of who does and does not make playoffs. Granted this is before Free Agency or the Draft, but who are your early picks for the 6 AFC playoff teams in 2012?

Walker: Are you going to hold me to this in February, Andrew? I’m not ready to go there yet. Get back to me when Peyton Manning makes his decision. I might be ready for some early projections then.

AFC East Homer of the Week

Kinger1872 writes: BUFFALO BILLS! AFC EAST CHAMPS NEXT YEAR!

Walker: Kinger1872, I like your spunk. When I read your comment it reminded me of the many excited Bills fans in the blog from September and early October. (Where have they gone, by the way?) But the truth is the Bills have a long way to go to catch the Patriots. A case can be made that they have the longest way to go of any AFC East team. But congrats on being our first AFC East “Homer of the Week” in 2012.

If you have any additional questions, comments or homerific statements, feel free to send them to our AFC East inbox.