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Tuesday, August 12, 2008
AFC North mailbag: Around the division

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Let's get into some AFC North questions and answers.

Aaron from McDaniel College, MD writes: How much of an impact will Dan Cody have on the Ravens this year?

James Walker: Hello, Aaron. Dan Cody looks the part and the coaching staff likes him in Baltimore. But Cody still needs time to learn the NFL game. Keep in mind he's played less than two games in three years. He is still a rookie in many ways. So for now the Ravens are trying him on various special teams with eventual plan to use him as a situational linebacker and pass rusher on defense. But with the way injuries are happening in Baltimore, his role could increase.


Jack from Chicago writes: James, thanks for the good notes on Bengals' camp. I know it is early, but how do the defensive rookies look? I know Rivers is holding out, but how about Sims, Shirley, Lynch, and Craig? Along with Rivers, what is to be expected of these guys, if anything, outside of special teams duties? Thanks again and keep up the good work.

James Walker: No problem, Jack. They are looking as you would expect -- like typical young players. So far defensive tackle Pat Sims has been the most impressive of the defensive rookie group. He's a big body and he's physical. Keith Rivers now is in camp, so expect the rookie talent level to improve dramatically. Rivers is one of my impact rookies to watch in the NFL for 2008.


Kyle from Texas writes: Do you think the Cowboys will sweep the AFC north this year?

James Walker: Good question, Kyle. The Dallas Cowboys travel to Cleveland and Pittsburgh this year. They will lose at least one of those games.


TJ writes: JAmes, great stuff man, i read this every day. Question though, do you think that the bengals D is really gonna shock some body this year and who do you see coming out on top the division, please dont say steeler. haha. have a good one.

James Walker: Thanks for the support, T.J. I'm going to hold off on firm predictions for now because I want to watch the entire preseason and see which players get injured. But the Bengals defense looks average so far. I watched them close up during their first week of training camp and they didn't make enough plays. Perhaps playing against quarterback Carson Palmer everyday can do that to a defense. They could struggle early, then improve as the season goes on. For more info, check out my interview with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.


Jon from Elyria, Ohio writes: James, Have any of Cleveland's WRs (besides Braylon, Donte Stallworth and a healthy Jerevicius) stood out in camp, as far as having good potential to be future starters? Also, do you envision the improved defensive front taking enough pressure of the DBs to field a competitive, effective defense? Thanks a lot!

James Walker: Jon, the light has really come on this summer for Travis Wilson. The former third-round pick had two non-existent years in Cleveland but has suddenly begun making plays now that he's on the bubble. Wilson had a good preseason opener last week with three catches for 58 yards against the New York Jets. It was an extension of what players, coaches and media have seen in practice from Wilson the past couple months. If Wilson can keep this going, he will be the favorite to take the vacant third-receiver spot in Cleveland.


Tom from Calgary, Canada writes: Has Brady Quinn shown he is a legitimate contender for the starting quarterback position after his performance against New York in the preseason, and if he does not start how many reps will he get in regular season games.

James Walker: Sorry to break it to you Tom, but Brady Quinn was never a contender for the starting job because the job wasn't open. The Cleveland Browns made it clear in the offseason -- not to mention with the $8 million per year contract -- that Derek Anderson was the starter. The only way Cleveland changes course is through injury or if Anderson plays so awful that he's single-handedly losing games. If neither of those scenarios play out, the Browns will revisit their quarterback situation after the season, because one guy likely will have to go before the 2009 season.


Brian from Pittsburgh writes: Is there any chance the Browns go out and get Ty Law to solidify their secondary? Is he still capable of helping a team?

James Walker: I'm hearing that the Browns are still in the market for a cornerback but it's not Ty Law. His price tag is too high, and Cleveland doesn't necessarily feel it needs another starter.


Brian Grant from Chicago writes: Mr. Walker, On the Browns, How would you rate their defense this year, is in improved this year from the swiss cheese of last year? Do the Browns have a ligit chance of winning the Division and going deep into the playoff picture. Thanks, Brian Grant

James Walker: It will not be "Swiss cheese," which is a clever way of putting it, Brian. If the defense is middle of the pack, which would be a significant jump, Cleveland would most certainly be in the playoff picture. The biggest question this year is its pass defense, not stopping the run as it has been in past years.