AFC East: Mailbag

Let's take a peek in the AFC East mailbag to answer some questions and concerns.

FinsCanada writes: Long time participant on the AFC East blog. I know it's not you, but feed it up the chain that the new Facebook requirement on July 17th means I'm out.

James Walker: FinsCanada, I want to first say thank you for being a loyal reader. I hope that you continue to check out for NFL coverage even if you choose to no longer participate in the comments section. There are a lot of complaints this week from our community about the eventual change to Facebook. Yes, you will need an account to make comments, which is geared towards accountability. To help better understand the system, I recommend checking out these frequently asked questions.

Tommy from Paris, France, writes: Does Aaron Hernandez' arrest and subsequent release mean that the Patriots will pursuit Brandon Lloyd? If not what are the Patriots going to do to fill the voids?

Walker: New England’s decision was made completely independent of Lloyd, Tommy. Hernandez forced the Patriots’ hand. There were no prior plans to cut the tight end until he was arrested and charged for murder and five additional gun charges. Unless Lloyd is willing to accept a cheap, bargain-basement contract, I don’t see a reunion. The Patriots didn’t want to pay him several months ago, so that hasn’t changed.

Richard from Miami writes: How is Jonathan Martin fitting into his role at the left tackle position?

Walker: Richard, it’s hard to fully assess Martin’s progress in organized team activities and minicamp. There is little or no contact in these practices. Therefore, the offensive line doesn’t do much to really grade their performance. However, I do like the fact that Martin is noticeably bigger and put more work in the weight room this year. Strength was his biggest weakness, and he’s trying to change that. But it’s too early to say how good Martin will be at left tackle this year until the Dolphins put the pads on.

Dave from Waipahu, HI, writes: Is CJ Spiller a top-five running back in the league this year?

Walker: Well, according to the NFL Network, Spiller is not even one of the league’s top-100 players. Obviously, fellow players don’t view Spiller as elite. I think Spiller is great, but consistency and longevity is what earns respect in the NFL. Spiller produced with limited opportunities last year. He will be the lead guy all year in 2013. I’m not ready to say he’s in the top five until Spiller can prove it over multiple seasons. But Spiller can definitely have a Pro Bowl season if he stays healthy.

Felipe from Brooklyn, NY writes: Hey, James. Do you see the Jets pulling off a 2010 Carolina Panthers season which lands them the 1st overall pick in next year’s draft?

Walker: I noticed there are a lot of people who feel the Jets will be the worst team in the NFL this year. I agree New York will struggle. The Jets are in a rebuilding year and have major questions at quarterback. However, Rex Ryan is a top-notch defensive coach. If he can get at least one side of the ball playing well, the Jets can win a few games -- at least enough to avoid the No. 1 overall pick in 2014.
Let's take a peek in the AFC East mailbag and answer some questions.

Marcus B from Arlington, VA, writes: I know it's ridiculously early for making roster predictions. But what are your initial thoughts about which Miami Dolphins WRs make the roster besides Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson?

James Walker: The Dolphins aren’t even close to making that decision a month before training camp, Marcus. But let’s examine for entertainment. I expect the Dolphins to keep at least five receivers, possibly six for special teams’ purposes. As you mentioned, Wallace, Hartline and Gibson are locks. That leaves at least two spots open. Based on what I saw on organized team activities and minicamp, Armon Binns and Rishard Matthews would be my picks for those two spots. But the Dolphins do not have to make that decision today. Someone can always step up in training camp and preseason, which carries more weight with Miami’s coaching staff.

Kevin from State College, PA writes: Stop hating on the Patriots. Every article you write about them drips with your personal bias against them. You’re supposed to be neutral since you cover the whole division.

Walker: It’s always funny to hear the case for me being a “homer” or a “hater.” The past two regular seasons, many AFC East blog readers called me a Patriots’ homer because I praised how well the team was doing. They made it to the Super Bowl and AFC title game in back-to-back years, and the coverage reflected that. Now, things are going downhill this offseason and I point it out, and Patriots fans call me a hater. The truth is I have no ties or personal bias with any of these teams. If an AFC East team is doing well, good things will be written. If an AFC East team isn’t doing well, the coverage will be the opposite. It’s pretty simple.

JR from Tampa Bay writes: James, what's your take on the fact Mark Sanchez is holding off Geno Smith for now?

Walker: Thanks for the question, JR. My take on the Jets quarterback competition is it’s been pretty lukewarm so far. Sanchez is ahead mostly due to experience, which should be the case. But Smith has more natural talent and a higher ceiling, and at some point he will overtake Sanchez for the starting job. The question is will it happen in Week 1, Week 8 or next season? It’s really depending on Smith’s development and his ability to adjust to the speed of the NFL game.

Bryan Weber from Elma, NY, writes: What you think the future looks like for the Buffalo Bills right now? I don't expect them to make the playoffs this year (I still have hope though), but I believe they have the right pieces in place to be a playoff contender in 2-3 years. Thoughts?

Walker: Bryan, it is always hard for me to look ahead 2-3 years. Too many things change with rosters, drafts, free agency and hirings and firings. For example, could you have predicted Doug Marrone would be Buffalo’s head coach and quarterback EJ Manuel would be drafted in the first round three years ago? I take things year-to-year, and for this season Buffalo does not look like a playoff team. It’s a young group with some talented pieces that I like. But it always comes down to the quarterback. Can Kevin Kolb or Manuel be consistent enough to lead the Bills to the playoffs? I expect Buffalo to be competitive, but on the outside looking in for the postseason again this year.

AFC East holiday mailbag

May, 27, 2013
Happy Memorial Day to everyone in our AFC East community. I hope you’re having a good time with family and eating good food.

While you’re enjoying the day, let’s take a quick peek in our AFC East mailbag.

Ken from Montreal writes: Can Mario Williams get is head straight and become the great defensive player the Buffalo Bills thought they had?

James Walker: This isn’t Buffalo’s biggest concern, Ken. But it should be on the Bills’ radar. Williams is in the second year of a $100 million contract, and he needs to be more consistently dominant. His final sack numbers (10.5) were solid, but he got most of his sacks in six or seven games last year. In the other games, Williams was a non-factor due to injuries and poor play. The latest lawsuit with his ex-fiancÚ had some troubling details, but Williams told the Bills that he’s fine.

Andrew from Charlotte, NC, writes: I saw Buffalo move Aaron Williams to safety. Do you think he is a good fit there? He would have to play SS and Byrd will be FS?

Walker: It’s too early to say if it’s a good fit. But it reminds me of what happened to Devin McCourty with the New England Patriots in 2011 and 2012. McCourty played well at corner early but could never duplicate that success afterwards. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick began experimenting with McCourty at safety because he is a good athlete. Williams is similar. He showed flashes at corner early but didn’t seem to make enough strides or stay healthy. The Bills have a big need at safety and Williams has the size and athleticism to give it a try.

Jake from Baltimore writes: Quinton Coples is being moved to OLB. He is too heavy now and needs to lose a few. But aside from that, what kind of success could the Jets expect there?

Walker: Coples was finally getting it late in the year. I worry that a position change will stunt his growth, but an outside rusher is what the team needs. Coples will struggle in pass coverage. It’s not natural for him to guard tight ends and slot receivers. But I expect Jets head coach Rex Ryan to use Coples’ strengths and blitz him more often than not. This is something to keep an eye on in training camp and the preseason.

Douglas Maguire from Honolulu, HI, writes: I am very concerned about the Miami Dolphins left tackle position. Do you think Jonathan Martin has what it takes to play at the level needed for the Dolphins to be serious playoff contenders?

Walker: We examined this last week in our “Show and Prove” post. Martin is part of our 2013 group in the AFC East who really need to step up. I like what I see from Martin so far. He’s done a lot of work in the weight room and has added noticeable bulk in his arms and shoulders. Increasing strength is very important for Martin. But I don’t expect the same level of play the Dolphins had when Jake Long was healthy.

Jason from Vancouver, WA, writes: What do you expect from running back LeGarrette Blount in New England this season?

Walker: Blount will have to fight for his opportunities. He showed potential in Tampa Bay but fell out of favor with the new coaching staff last year. This is a good chance for Blount. Stevan Ridley is the feature back and Shane Vereen is the third-down threat. There doesn't appear to be a big role for Blount unless an injury occurs. I expect the Patriots to use Blount in short-yardage and perhaps the red zone, which could provide some value to fantasy football players out there.

Walker's weekend mailbag

January, 5, 2013
With the 2012 regular season in the books, a lot of readers in our community have things to get off their chest.

Let’s see what’s in our AFC East mailbag.

Ray from Tulsa, Okla., wants an "honest" evaluation of Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

James Walker: I see mostly good in Tannehill, Ray. I like Tannehill's arm, mobility and even-keeled demeanor. I think all three things will serve him well in the future. Tannehill also is a good athlete. The only thing that scared me last season is his accuracy comes and goes in games. He can go quarters or long stretches where he gets cold. But I think that will improve when his supporting cast improves. Building up the offense around Tannehill should be Miami's biggest offseason priority.

AlexWeller721 via Twitter writes: Do you think the Dolphins should pay running back Reggie Bush or turn this team over to Lamar Miller?

Walker: This is a tough one, Alex. Thanks for the question. I like what Bush brought to the Dolphins. He was a leader by example and, at times, the team's only offensive playmaker. Bush rushed for more than 2,000 yards in two seasons in Miami. That was well above expectations. But this is a question of money. What is Bush worth to the Dolphins? They have the cap space to pay Bush a lot. But I think Miami will put a team-friendly contract offer on the table for Bush and see if he accepts. If not, the Dolphins will be ready to move on with Miller and Daniel Thomas.

Ken from Montreal writes: What has been more disappointing: Buffalo’s offense or defense?

Walker: You have to go with the defense, Ken. Buffalo's offense is what it is under Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can be hot and cold, and that's what Buffalo's offense was. I also think that's why the Bills will move on from Fitzpatrick, because you can't win consistently with an erratic quarterback. The defense was projected to be a top-10 group by some. Buffalo's run defense was atrocious. The defensive line significantly underachieved and the linebackers are not playmakers. Buffalo's young corners also took a beating, although I like rookie Stephon Gilmore's potential.

Charles D from Syracuse, N.Y., writes: I was wondering, in your opinion, who SHOULD the Bills be looking at for head coach?

Walker: I like the good mix and due diligence for the Bills this week. They've looked at former head coaches like Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt, assistants like Ray Horton and Mike McCoy, as well as college coaches like Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone. They should have enough info at this point to make an informed decision. Kelly is out, so Buffalo has to move fast before it loses more candidates. I have my opinions on each of these coaches. But I'm going to wait to see who Buffalo picks and examine the fit from there.

Adam from Allentown, N.J., writes: Do you think the New York Jets need both Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on their roster?

Walker: This is an interesting question, Adam. Cromartie certainly played at a Pro Bowl level without Revis this season. Cromartie is proving he still has what it takes to be a No. 1 corner. The Jets are also strapped with next year’s salary cap and trading Revis' big salary would provide relief. However, I am never for trading your best player, because it's nearly impossible to get equal value. Revis, when healthy, is the best cornerback in football. Trading him coming off a season-ending injury will not get equal value. I expect the Jets to make significant cuts in other areas of the roster and keep Revis in the final year of his contract.

Rich from Pompano Beach, Fla., writes: Is it possible Jets keep Tim Tebow to develop an offense for him and strengthen the defense with the No. 9 pick?

Walker: The Tebow era is over in New York, Rich. It was a bust. It's time to let it go.

tomC50 writes: I know Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is a talent. But my perception is that he does almost as many bad things (motion penalties, dropped and tipped passes, fumbles) as he does good things. What do you think?

Walker: That’s an astute observation, Tom. Hernandez is a high-risk, high-reward player at times. He can make spectacular plays and follow up by dropping a routine pass. But the good greatly outweighs the bad with Hernandez. His versatility is unique. Remember last season in the playoffs when he shared time at running back? Hernandez is a great chess piece for Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Eric Moss from North Providence, R.I., writes: Do you think Tom Brady will surprise us and walk away if he's a Super Bowl winner this year?

Walker: I don’t see Brady walking away this soon unless he is injured. Brady says he wants to play until he’s 40. That’s five more years. I don’t know if his body can take the pounding for that long, but his mind and his arm are certainly sharp enough. Even if Brady wins a Super Bowl, I think he would try to get five and surpass his childhood hero Joe Montana.

Comment and complaint department

Don R. from N.C. writes: You just wrote about Sanchez starting for the Jets. I want to set the record straight. FANS DO NOT WANT TO SEE HIM PLAY QB FOR THE JETS OR COMPETE FOR THE STARTING JOB NEXT YEAR!!! I don't care if he's due a $1 billion dollars! There is no way you can trot him out opening day as the starter next year. He's done in NY. However, I want to keep Rex. Happy New Year!

Walker: Don, the fact is money matters in the NFL. The Jets would love to move on from Sanchez, but they agreed to a $58.25 million extension last year. In that extension was a guaranteed salary of $8.25 million in 2013. The Jets have to foot the bill no matter what, and if they cut Sanchez, the cap hit more than doubles. Unless the Jets find a trade partner, which is doubtful, Sanchez will be on the roster next year. He might get a chance to compete for the starting job or simply be an expensive clipboard holder.

Stephen Kelly from Valencia, Calif., writes: Time to fire Rex Ryan. How embarrassing. He is a grown, 50-year-old man. He's not some kid. Woody Johnson should be mortified. Eric Mangini is Bill Walsh all of a sudden. Ryan has become a full-blown clown.

Walker: I’ve covered the NFL since 2004, Stephen, and I'm at the point where not much surprises me anymore. I thought I've seen and/or covered just about every form of NFL controversy. But Ryan's arm tattoo of a Sanchez jersey shocked me. That was new and zany -- even by Jets standards. I don't know what Ryan was thinking. I really like Ryan in terms of Xs and Os on defense. But some of the circus-like stuff that comes with Ryan is becoming a bit much, especially now that he’s had two straight non-winning seasons.

Edward Lusala from Bloomington, Ill., writes: Why re-sign Miami players who have contributed to three straight losing seasons? They have not improved the team or themselves, why expect anything different the next year? I don't understand the thinking in the NFL.

Walker: The point is to try to keep your best players, Edward. Yes, Miami lacks elite talent. That's why the Dolphins only had defensive end Cameron Wake in the Pro Bowl this year. However, that doesn't mean guys like Jake Long, Reggie Bush, Brian Hartline, Randy Starks and Sean Smith are scrubs. These are good players who can add to your core. You can't have 53 Pro Bowlers.

AFC East mailbag: Bills and Jets

November, 28, 2012
It’s tough being Buffalo Bills (4-7) and New York Jets (4-7) fans. Both teams are out of the playoff picture in the AFC East and there’s still five games left to play.

With that in mind, let’s answer some questions and complaints on the Bills and Jets from our AFC East inbox.

Silas Atwood from Buffalo writes: All year long you've said that Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to be more consistent for the Bills to win. What Buffalo REALLY needs to do is keep the ball away from him as much as possible. The more he controls the ball, the more likely we are to lose. Hand it off and get out of the way, Fitz.

James Walker: This sounds great in theory, Silas. But this is the NFL. Eventually you have to throw the football. The Jets, for example, would love to run the football 40 times every game and allow quarterback Mark Sanchez to throw only when needed. But that’s too predictable and easy to stop. The Bills are trying to hold Fitzpatrick’s hand but that hasn’t worked and now players are frustrated. The good teams have balance.

Bruce Johnson from Deland, Fla., writes: The Bills should fire Chan Gailey- if he hasn't learned solid play-calling and game management by now, he never will. My question for you is, do you think that the Bills would entertain hiring Perry Fewell if he were willing to come back? The Bills were trying to emulate the Giants' defensive philosophy with their front four. Fewell could elevate the Bills' D to a whole other level with existing personnel and a decent draft. What do you think?

JW: Good question, Bruce. I’m so caught up in this season that I haven’t thought about potential coaching hires. Gailey isn’t out the door yet. Let’s see what happens in Buffalo over these next five games. The Bills have an easy schedule and general manager Buddy Nix seems committed to Gailey. As far as Fewell, he’s been a solid candidate for a while but has yet to land a head post. I think there will be so many jobs available this year that Fewell will land someone. But it’s too early to say if Buffalo would be at the top of the list.

Jason from Athens, Ala., writes: Do you think Jairus Byrd is underrated? He is tied with Ed Reed for third most interceptions since 2009 when he came into the league, and when he make's plays the Bills tend to win. Does not seem like anybody gives him any credit.

JW: Byrd is underrated, largely due to where he plays. But he will get plenty of credit in a few months when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Bills need to pay up or another team will.

Sam Ditch from Mexico writes: You said it, James: It's not Tebow, it's the Jets. "They have no idea what to do with him." The Jets are out of control. The Jets are in a tailspin.

JW: Yes, Sam, the Jets have no idea what to do with Tebow, who has a unique set of skills. It takes innovation to get the most out of Tebow, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano are not offensive innovators. It’s simply a bad fit, and I think Tebow should request a trade in the offseason.

Jared from New York writes: While I agree with you that Rex Ryan at least deserves another season in NY, I wanted to get your take on other changes to the Jets coaching staff: namely offensive coordinator. I think it's fairly clear that the Tony Sparano hire hasn't worked out as expected.

JW: This is something that must be worked out with Ryan and ownership. Most of the time, head coaches have control over their staff. They do the hiring and firing among the assistants. If that’s the case, Sparano isn’t going anywhere. The two have a lot of mutual respect and it’s only been one year. But sometimes there is intervention from the general manager or ownership in these kinds of matters. Occasionally the head coach is told he can stay, as long as alterations are made on the staff. It’s too early to say what direction the Jets are headed.

Reminder: AFC East mailbag

May, 9, 2012
We will have another weekend mailbag coming up soon in the AFC East blog. So have your questions ready for the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills.

The draft is over and free agency is all but done. We can begin looking ahead to the 2012 season.

Here is the link to send all your questions, comments and complaints on the division.

Preview: AFC East mailbag

May, 3, 2012
You have questions. We have answers.

Here is a reminder to send all your questions, comments or complaints this week to our AFC East mailbag. We will address everything related to the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

There's plenty to discuss following the draft. So let's hear it.

AFC East mailbag reminder

March, 22, 2012
We will have another AFC East mailbag this weekend, and I'm sure you all have plenty of questions.

Who's left in free agency? Where does Tim Tebow fit in New York? What are the Miami Dolphins doing?

Feel free to send us all your questions here. You can also send your comments and complaints, although you might run the risk of being our latest "Homer of the Week."

AFC East free-agency mailbag

March, 13, 2012
We are canceling this week's 4 p.m. ET chat for the start of free agency. But I figured it would be good to replace it by digging into the AFC East mailbag and answering a few questions.

John Bruce from Lyndhurst, N.J., writes: How good of a fit would you think safety LaRon Landry is to Rex Ryan's scheme, and what would you think the odds are of the New York Jets taking a shot at acquiring him?

James Walker: Good question, John. Landry has his strengths (size, big hitter) and weaknesses (coverage, injury-prone). He wouldn't be New York's first choice, but he's probably the best of the remaining group after several free-agent safeties were tagged last week. The diluted pool makes Landry a top target for the Jets. They can't afford to leave this offseason without at least one starting-caliber safety, maybe two. I expect the Jets to show interest. But as usual, it could come down to money and cap room.

Gabriela from Florida writes: How committed are the Buffalo Bills to Ryan Fitzpatrick? Do you think they'll draft a QB or add one in free agency?

Walker: You would be surprised how often I get this question. Fitzpatrick is the guy in Buffalo. The situation is actually pretty similar to the Jets' with Mark Sanchez. Each quarterback just received a big extension, which ensures he will be the starter for at least the next two or three seasons. Therefore, I don't see Buffalo adding a veteran quarterback. The Bills may draft a project-type in the middle or late rounds to develop.

Forrest from Tucson, Ariz., wants to know if the Miami Dolphins really want Peyton Manning.

Walker: The Dolphins want Manning bad, Forrest. They met with him Monday night. He's a guy who can instantly change the fortune of this losing franchise. The bigger question is, does Manning want Miami? The Dolphins do not have that answer at the start of free agency, which makes it tricky because they are also interested in former Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn.

Sloan from Seattle wants to know if the New England Patriots will get free-agent defensive end Mario Williams.

Walker: The Patriots are a possibility. But I think money is what doesn't make them the favorites. I expect New England to go after several solid players instead of one expensive superstar. That's usually been the Patriots' model. They have several holes to fill, including rushing the passer. But Williams is going to cost a ton -- and deservedly so. He instantly makes the defensive side of the football a lot better.

Enjoy 2012 NFL free agency, everyone, and remember to check out the AFC East blog Tuesday evening and throughout the week for constant updates and analysis.

Reminder: AFC East mailbag

March, 8, 2012
It's that time of the week when we take your questions and provide answers in our AFC East mailbag. Feel free to send your questions, comments, complaints or whatever else is on your mind here.

There is a lot of ground to cover with all four teams. Free agency is about to get underway next week, and the draft is inching closer. Peyton Manning also is available and could land in the AFC East.

We will have our next weekend mailbag completed by the end of the week.

Seeking mailbag questions

February, 15, 2012
The AFC East blog is ready for another weekend mailbag. So if you have any questions about your favorite team, send them to our division inbox.

It's a slow time right now following the Super Bowl. But things are about to pick up again with the NFL combine at the end of the month and free agency in March. Also, if you agree or disagree with this week's "Walker's Fab 40," let us know.

Here's our list so far:
  • 17. RB Reggie Bush, Dolphins
  • 18. WR Steve Johnson, Bills
  • 19. LB Cameron Wake, Dolphins
  • 20. CB Vontae Davis, Dolphins
  • 21. G Brian Waters, Patriots
  • 22. DT Paul Soliai, Dolphins
  • 23. G Andy Levitre, Bills
  • 24. CB Antonio Cromartie, Jets
  • 25. DT Marcell Dareus, Bills
  • 26. QB Matt Moore, Dolphins
  • 27. C Eric Wood, Bills
  • 28. LB Jerod Mayo, Patriots
  • 29. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
  • 30. TE Dustin Keller, Jets
  • 31. LB Brandon Spikes, Patriots
  • 32. RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
  • 33. DE Mark Anderson, Patriots
  • 34. QB Mark Sanchez, Jets
  • 35. P Brandon Fields, Dolphins
  • 36. LB Rob Ninkovich, Patriots
  • 37. G Brandon Moore, Jets
  • 38. P Brian Moorman, Bills
  • 39. LB Kevin Burnett, Dolphins
  • 40. CB Kyle Arrington, Patriots

Seeking AFC East mailbag questions

February, 8, 2012
The football season is officially over. But that only means the rumor mill is about to heat up with free agency and the NFL draft. We will be doing more mailbags again in the AFC East blog starting this week.

How will the New England Patriots handle 20 free agents? Will the Miami Dolphins or New York Jets land Peyton Manning? What’s up with Steve Johnson and the Buffalo Bills? There are hot topics all over the division that need to be addressed in the coming weeks and months.

Send all your offseason questions here, and I will get to as many as I can by Saturday.

Send mailbag questions here

November, 3, 2011
We have another weekend mailbag coming up in the AFC East.

Last week's edition touched on Bill Cowher, Terrell Owens and Tim Tebow. What craziness will this week bring?

Send your questions, comments and complaints on the division to our mailbag. We will get to as many as we can.

Mailbag time!

October, 26, 2011
It's once again time for questions and answers.

Stop by our AFC East mailbag this week and send your questions, comments and complaints on the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

We will get to our always entertaining mailbag on Saturday. Here was last week's edition.

Mailbag time!

October, 21, 2011
It's that time again for questions and answers.

Send your questions, comments and complaints for this week to our AFC East mailbag. We will get to as many of them as we can by Saturday.

Two teams (Patriots, Bills) are on a bye week, while the Jets and Dolphins will be in action. We will hit on all the teams.