- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's see what's in our AFC North inbox this week.
James Walker: Eric, first Butler needs a chance to compete, and that will depend on what happens in free agency. I expect the Steelers to make a push for Ike Taylor, and if he returns, Taylor and Bryant McFadden are the starters. Otherwise, Pittsburgh may look to secondary options like Carlos Rogers and Richard Marshall, and one of those players would take a starting role. But if Pittsburgh doesn't make a move in free agency, Butler has as good a chance as anyone in Pittsburgh.
Mike Diaddigo from Chantilly, Va., writes: Should the Steelers consider going after Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft?
Walker: Mike, the Steelers are probably the one team in the division that I cannot see taking on a project like Pryor. They are set at quarterback and have plenty of backup options in Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch.
Russell Goodacre from Ijamsville, Md., writes: Do you agree with LaMarr Woodley's comments on the NFL Network about how Joe Flacco will never lead the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl?
Walker: I would definitely avoid making predictions for the span of an entire career, Russell. I only make them year-to-year, and as of June and before free agency, the Ravens right now are on my short list of title contenders. Overall, I believe Flacco, 26, will only get better as a quarterback.
Jad from Chicago wants to know if the Ravens could go after free-agent defensive end Ray Edwards.
Walker: I don't see that as a match, Jad. Edwards spent most of his career as a pass-rushing defensive end in a 4-3 defense, and the Ravens switch back and forth between a 3-4 and 4-3. If Edwards comes to the AFC North, he's probably a better fit for the Cleveland Browns.
Gabe from Iowa writes: With the Bengals wanting a power running game, wouldn't it be wise for them to target free-agent fullback Lawrence Vickers?
Walker: Gabe, it depends on whether the Bengals believes Vickers is a good fit in the West Coast offense. Apparently, Cleveland's coaching staff doesn't believe that's the case, and both Ohio teams share many of the same offensive principles. I would consider Vickers in Cincinnati, especially since the Bengals really want to run the football. Vickers is one of the top run-blocking fullbacks in the league.
Becky from Galloway, Ohio, writes: Any chance the Bengals bring T.J. Houshmandzadeh back to help the younger receivers?
Walker: This is unlikely, Becky. The Bengals are set on getting younger at the position, and it would seem like an odd move to cut one 30-plus receiver (Chad Ochocinco) for another (Houshmandzadeh). In my conversations with Houshmandzadeh last season, I also sensed he's set on competing for a title at this point in his career, and the Bengals are not title contenders.
Mark from Canton, Ohio, wants to know what makes the Browns' receivers so bad?
Walker: There are several factors involved, Mark. The biggest are talent, athleticism and poor choice of roles in the offense. Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi are not considered elite, NFL athletes at the receiver position. Neither is very fast or has the type of size and athleticism to out-jump defensive backs for the football. Those are two important tools for making plays at the position. Also, the Browns have run a shoddy passing offense and put Massaquoi and Robiskie in roles that are too big. From what I've seen, Massaquoi is not a true No. 1 receiver, but he's asked to play that role in Cleveland. Robiskie also may be better suited as a No. 3 receiver or as a reserve coming off the bench.
Justin from Colorado Springs, Colo., writes: I know you said Tressel wouldn't be a good translation into a head coach job in the NFL, but what are you thoughts about him being an offensive coordinator?
Walker: Justin, the punt is the most important play in football, according to Jim Tressel. Do you really want him running your NFL offense? It's a bad match.
Comment and complaint department
DG from Baltimore writes: James, I'm sick and tired of Joe Flacco taking so much heat. His stats are almost identical to Matt Ryan's, and he also has won 4 playoff games compared to Ryan's zero. Sure, the guy isn't perfect and hasn't come through in the clutch, but he is the best this Ravens organization has had, and he is taking too much heat. This town has been blessed with the likes of Johnny U and even a Bert Jones, but c'mon, give this kid some time.
Mike from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, writes: Joe Flacco is a really good QB both statistically and by winning percentage. Whether he wins a Super Bowl or not is to be determined but he's still a really good QB and the best Baltimore has seen since Johnny Unitas. Carson Palmer was always overhyped and overrated a bit but has zero playoff wins and only two winning seasons. Flacco already has more winning seasons and playoff wins than that guy. Besides, even if Flacco wins multiple championships someone will say it was because of the defense. Haters will hate. He still has to get past the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and that's a fact.
Walker: I agree, DG and Mike. This Flacco bashing is starting to get out of hand. First it was media and fans, but now opposing players are getting involved, and that's not the norm. Flacco is a good, young quarterback finishing his third season. He's had more success so far than Ryan and Josh Freeman, who are revered, and there's still plenty of room to grow. I think Flacco will be fine in Year 4 and beyond.
Brandon Crawford from Baltimore writes: Dhani Jones should stop worrying about Flacco and trying to improve to help his pathetic franchise. I mean after they were voted the worst franchise by ESPN.
Walker: Brandon, Jones' remarks surprised me more than Woodley's, even though Flacco has had some bad games against the Bengals and Steelers. Cincinnati is coming off a 4-12 season, and the Bengals have much room to trash talk about other playoff teams and playoff quarterbacks. I thought it was unnecessary.
Chris P. from Marietta, Ga., writes: I would gladly give you 60 players that are better at his respected position than Ben Roethlisberger in a more organized list than what Dan gave you.
Walker: Sorry, Chris. But we're not doing this in the blog every week. Dan talked tough, so I called him out, and he later admitted he couldn't name 60. His list of 52 players came up mostly lame, also, according to our community. I'm sure your list would, too.
410-Monster from Baltimore writes: JW you don't want it in "Madden." You should set up a tourney.
Walker: Are you sure about that, 410? I was no slouch. The problem is it takes a lot of time and practice to be good in "Madden." One game takes nearly an hour. And as I got older and my job became more intense coming to ESPN three years ago, I no longer had that kind of time during the season. If I wait and buy the game in February once football season is over, it's too late and not nearly as fun. So I retired and just use my XBox now to watch movies. But don't tempt me.
AFC North "Homer of the Week"
This week's biggest homer comes from a comment I saw in one of this week's blog entries.
Noburghfan writes: With two Ohio teams leading the AFCN at season's end, what will the media do? Quit reporting the game’s outcome? No, they will have to admit the obvious! The favorites [Ravens and Steelers] are overdue to relinquish their position! They are not and have not been the best in this division, just the preferred!
Walker: Noburghfan, you are a rarity to predict the Browns AND the Bengals will be leading the AFC North at the end of the season. And that last sentence. ... I don't even know what that means. But congrats on being our "Homer of the Week."
If you have any future questions, complaints, homer or hater comments, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.