Chat with James Walker
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Cavaliers at the Dispatch. Walker grew up in Hyattsville, Md., before attending Temple University, graduating in 2001 with a B.A. in communications and mass media. He resides in the Cleveland area.
Send your questions now and join Walker on Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (11:29 AM)
Sorry folks, looks like James has gotten tied up in something.
Buzzmaster (1:20 PM)
I just talked to James and he's going to be by at 2 p.m. ET to chat!
James Walker (2:00 PM)
Hello everyone. Busy week in the division last week and all four teams play this weekend. So lets answer some questions.
Bake (Cleveland, OH)
Outside of injuries, what would you attribute the Browns' pathetic start to? Any chance at all of bouncing back? Thanks.
James Walker (2:02 PM)
It's a lot of reasons the Browns are 0-3 besides injuries. The team didn't handle expectations well and lost the hunger it had last season. Also, star players like Edwards, Anderson, Lewis and Wimbley have done little. The stars need to perform for any team to have a chance. I also think the overall coaching staff is not doing as good a job as last year.
Adam Cincinnati, Oh
Bengals looked better against he SB champs Sunday, I feel theres a good chance they shake things up in the AFC N. Seeing they've played undefeated teams thus far, do you feel the same?
James Walker (2:03 PM)
I'm not high on the Bengals, even with their performance. I still think they are in for a long season. They do have a winnable home game against Cleveland this week, though.
The Browns D has been getting a bad rap this season. Other than the Dallas game they havent played that bad but the offense has really put them in bad positions.
James Walker (2:04 PM)
I agree. Cleveland's defense is playing better football than a year ago, especially in the last two games. But the defense is still not making an impact, and when the offense is playing awful, someone needs to make a play.
David (Harpers Ferry, WV)
Hello James. Thanks for keeping us abreast of what's going on in the AFC North! How long do you think it will take for the Steelers to adjust to the onslaught of blitzes in store for them in the coming weeks? I was surprised it wasn't addressed in the second half. While the offensive line is an easy target to blame, I place a lot of the blame on the coaches for not adjusting the play calling. They seemed to have given up on the running game early. Your thoughts? Thanks!
James Walker (2:06 PM)
It's a personnel issue, and I really question if the Steelers have five good linemen on the roster to get it done. It's been this way for three straight seasons. No team can be strong everywhere, but when Pittsburgh plays the elite teams in the NFL, it could cost them like it did last week.
Andy (Hagerstown, Md)
Hey James, great blog. Looking at how the Ravens D is playing right now and Pittsburghs problems on the OL how do you see Monday nights matchup? Pittsburgh pounded the Ravens last year and the Ravens remember. Could there be some pay back?
James Walker (2:08 PM)
This will be a great game and I'm excited to cover it on Monday. I like hard-hitting affairs. I see it as low scoring. Not ready to pick a winner until I see who's hurt and who's playing.
Adam - Owings Mills MD
Do you think the Ravens can not only win the division, but make some noise in the playoffs?
James Walker (2:09 PM)
It's only two games Adam. Don't get ahead of yourself. You should be excited though with the brand of football the Ravens are playing right now. They are very physical and won't beat themselves.
If Anderson starts off bad like he has been, do the browns put Quinn?
James Walker (2:10 PM)
Derek Anderson's leash is extremely short right now. It's to the point where the Browns won't let him lose Sunday's game in Cincinnati. So if it gets close to that point, everyone will get to see Brady Quinn.
Ummm, don't you think the Raven fans are getting a little ahead of themselves? They have only beaten two winless teams.
James Walker (2:11 PM)
Yes, Patrick. Just mentioned that a second ago. There's reasons to be excited, but it's a long season. Monday's game will tell alot. I expect a good showing from both teams.
Greg (Rochester, NY)
Finally Carson Palmer looks like his old self - can the Bengals be a.500 tema this year? Playoffs are obviously not going to happen..
James Walker (2:12 PM)
.500 is probably not going to happen, either. Cincinnati would have to go 8-5 with a very tough schedule.
If the ravens get to the playoffs, do you think they can go to the superbowl?
James Walker (2:13 PM)
C'mon Korey, stop with the Super Bowl talk, my friend. Did you read the last few questions? The Ravens are playing well but it's only week 3. I like what they've shown thus far.
Mike (Youngstown Ohio)
Whats your opinion on the Bengals and how much they underachieve. As a Steelers fan, I'm tired of hearing year in and year out how they are the team and every year they choke? Kinda like the Browns too!
James Walker (2:14 PM)
I don't know if mnay people had high expectations for the Bengals outside of Cincinnati. I predicted they would finish fourth in the AFC North and so did many of my collegues. They have been on a downward spiral since 2005.
Ok, I wont get ahead of myself. I just think that this game will show a lot of what Flacco can do.
James Walker (2:15 PM)
Thanks. Monday night will say alot about the Ravens and the top of the division in general.
If Chad doesn't blow up against the CLE secondary then truly something is wrong? How do you project his performance for Sunday?
James Walker (2:18 PM)
Teams are taking away Chad Ocho Cinco. Defenses feel he's the only player that can beat them. That's why you often see T.J. Houshmandzadeh have these 12-catch games and the team still loses. T.J. is a great player, but if Chad ever gets 12 catches it will be for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
As a Ravens fan am I getting too far ahead of myself by calling the division a 2 team race? I think most Ravens fans a month ago would gladly have taken that at the end of September.
James Walker (2:19 PM)
No Jake, that's fair. The Browns and Bengals are both 0-3 and have lost to Baltimore in the division. A lot has to happen in the next month or so for this not to be a two-team race.
Does McGahee's production go up from here? They gotta give him 20+ touches a game, no? I can't buy into Mcclain & Rice stealing too much away from Willis when healthy...
James Walker (2:20 PM)
The Ravens will work Willis in gradually. McClain has really been a gem for Baltimore and has shown an ability to move the chains. So the team has no problem sticking to a 2 or 3 back system for now.
Chad Ocho Cinco (CIN)
James - People have always tried to take me away, what makes this year different?
James Walker (2:22 PM)
Chad, I'm surprised you haven't notice all the changes. You have no legitimate No. 3 receiver, Chris Perry is inconsistent and the offensive line is playing its worst football in years. It's much easier to stop 8-5 than it was in 2005.
Mike (Boca Raton)
what is your grade on flacco thus far into the season?
James Walker (2:24 PM)
As a straight grade against other NFL QBs, I'd give him a C+. On a curve considering what the Ravens expect from him, I'd say B+.
James, it's apparent the Ravens are bringing Flacco along slowly, capitalizing on their strengths with a nice running attack and the defense. Question: Do you see the Ravens opening up a bit more with Flacco in the passing attack? Thanks
James Walker (2:25 PM)
Not yet. They don't feel Joe is ready for that and Baltimore has a pretty good feel for what its winning formula is right now. The Ravens will continue to try to win games by running, playing defense, and protecting a rookie QB from himself.
Bengals Questions: Do you think they regret letting Rudi go after Sunday's performance? Why is Levi Jones struggling? Declining skills, attitude, or a combination? Three years ago, he would have blanked a guy like Kiwanuka.
James Walker (2:27 PM)
I don't think they regret letting Rudi go. They felt Chris at this stage is a better play, cheaper, and has more upside. Levi has played at a high level for a very long time. But linemen take a beating in the trenches, so he may be showing signs of a decline.
Simon Wang (Pittsburgh)
Do you Troy Polamalu has the best chance out of all the NFL players to win the Defensive Player of the Year?
James Walker (2:30 PM)
Man, we are all ahead ourselves today. Are we talking end of the year awards, too? It's hard for safeties to win DPOY, but Troy is playing at a high level and needs to stay healthy to have a shot.
Lots of folks around town are likening some of the early flashes Ray Rice has shown to Maurice Jones-Drew. Do you agree?
James Walker (2:31 PM)
I see some similarities. I'm not sure Rice is as polished as Jones-Drew was coming into the league right away.
Is DA as bad as he looks or have the play calling and injuries been a bigger factor than we all think? He supposedly improved his touch on the short passes in the off season but I see no improvement...
James Walker (2:32 PM)
That was the worst of Derek Anderson Sunday. He is a streaky passer and it can go really well or really bad. Injuries and everything around Anderson isn't going well either, but he still needs to overcome that if he wants to keep his job for much longer.
SprungOnSports (Long Island)
How well do you see Rashard Mendenhall doing in his first pro start with that line?
James Walker (2:33 PM)
Tough defense to have your first start against. The Ravens don't allow 100 rusher to anyone. We doubt Mendenhall will break their current streak.
Can this division win the wildcard?
James Walker (2:35 PM)
Good question. I thought yes coming in, but now I'm seeing how good the NFC East is and I don't see two AFC North teams winning 10+games this year, which is what it might take.
Considering Ben R. got me a whopping -1 fantasy point last week, would you play him or JT O'Sullivan?
James Walker (2:36 PM)
I would not play anyone on the Steelers or Ravens offense this week. It should be a low scoring affair.
Matt (Corpus Christi)
Do you think Big Ben will when the MVP in 2011? Haha. Figured I'd keep with the insanity!
James Walker (2:36 PM)
That's a good one!
Who's seat is hotter: Marvin Lewis or Romeo Crennel?
James Walker (2:36 PM)
The loser of Sunday's game.
Patrick (Ocala, FL)
Battle for Ohio... best game this weekend, right?
James Walker (2:37 PM)
It's the best NFL game in Ohio.
Pittsburgh has a ton of offensive weapons but the worst protection in the league, a really good defense also. They will probably win the north which gives them a playoff birth. Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel with that o-line, or will this just be a one and done in the playoffs assuming they make it?
James Walker (2:39 PM)
Anything is possible if the Steelers get to the playoffs. I think the line will improve (can't play any worse), but I don't see them totally fixing all their problems until next year's draft or free agency. It's not one player.
Lee (bridgeport, CT)
Do the Ravens go all season without adding any depth to are secondary?, there playing well but we know happend last season when C-Mac and Rolle were out
James Walker (2:39 PM)
The Ravens do have some depth this year with Walker, Washington and drafting two rookie safeties.
How much credit does Cam Cameron deserve for the Ravens success? As a longtime Ravens fan, I feel like I'm watching a real NFL offense for the first time since Testeverde. His game-plans are way more thought out than anything Billick ever produced.
James Walker (2:41 PM)
Cam Cameron is doing a masterful job with what he has. When he was the OC in San Diego he attacked, attacked, attacked, because he had the weapons. Now he's managing Baltimore's unit and letting DC Rex Ryan do the attacking. A great job on his part.
Now do you blame me for being a Cowboys fan?
James Walker (2:42 PM)
Hey LeBron, congrats on the gold medal. I alwasy thought the fan talk was overrated. How come no one cares who other NBA players root for?
James Walker (2:42 PM)
Hey LeBron, congrats on the gold medal. I always thought the fan talk was overrated. How come no one cares who other NBA players root for?
Are there any updates on Joe Jurevicous status for week 6 and do you expect him to come back this year?
James Walker (2:44 PM)
No update Pete. I saw him around the facility rehabbing last week and he definitely wasn't ready to return. But he has at least another month to heal, so check back then.
James, I see that Casey Hampton and Willie Parker are out for MNF. Impact your feelings on which way the game will turn? Call me overly optimistic, but I'm liking the Ravens chances.
James Walker (2:45 PM)
This helps the Ravens chances on both ends. Baltimore wants to run the ball and stuff the run.
James, what do you think of the Ravens young OL? They seem to do a good job of opening up holes, protecting Flacco and picking up blitzes albeit against two of the weaker D's in the NFL.
James Walker (2:46 PM)
The o-line has played tremendous football. I was most impressed in the fourth quarter when they just ate up clock against Cleveland and Cincinnati. It almost looked too easy.
Big Jake (The Dog Pound)
Does Jamal Lewis still have gas in his tank or was last season a fluke? Can he get it going this week and maybe score a TD or 2?
James Walker (2:47 PM)
Jamal appeared to have gotten better from his ankle and hamstring issues Sunday. But he didn't get enough carries because the team fell behind. Jamal wasn't happy about it and our guess is he will get a lot of carries this week.
Adam: Cincinnati, Oh
James, who would you take first? Palmer, Big Ben, Flacco, DA or Quinn?
James Walker (2:48 PM)
Starting a franchise, I like Ben or Palmer. It's close. Both are very good, even though Palmer is struggling this year.
Do the Ravens resing T-Sizzle or do they let him walk off to Arizona after the season?. I would think they would want to lock him up now, he still very young and is only getting better
James Walker (2:49 PM)
The Ravens want him and will do everythign they can to sign him. Since Suggs has the franchise tag, the team can't re-negotiate his deal until after the season.
Is Stallworth playing this week?
James Walker (2:50 PM)
He will probably be questionable but Stallworth is looking better than he did a week or two ago. My guess is he comes back Sunday or after the bye week at the very least.
Adam: Cincinnat, Oh
You're crazy James, you know Palmer is tops. Imagine if he was on the Steelers and vice versa for Ben.
James Walker (2:52 PM)
Adam, both guys are pretty good. It's close in my book.
Parker out Monday... Correct??
James Walker (2:53 PM)
Yes, that is correct. No timetable beyond that right now.
Pat (Towson, MD)
Do you think the winner of this monday night's will win the afc north as well?
James Walker (2:54 PM)
Too early to say that. But the winner will have an early jump, especially in the Ravens case because they have yet to lose a game.
mike massillon ohio
After one bad outing why does it feel like everybody has just put the steelers aside and put them as not a good team when a week ago they were considered a top afc team. i think alot to blame for the game on sunday was coaching
James Walker (2:55 PM)
I don't think so, Mike. People still feel Pittsburgh is a very good team. But it's biggest weakness was exposed and many wonder if it can be fixed or will hold the team back against good teams like Philly.
James, Antwan Barnes has been extremely quite thus far, after having a pretty strong camp. Any idea why?
James Walker (2:56 PM)
The guys in front of him are playing lights out football right now. I wouldn't worry about Barnes too much right now.
Any more news on Dawan Landry's injury from Sunday? Classy move by Braylon Edwards and the rest of the Browns by kneeling & praying with the Ravens players.
James Walker (2:57 PM)
Good news with Landry. He is out of the hospital and will be back on the field at some point. The Ravens don't when just yet.
Pat (Towson, MD)
Yes, a win would give us a great jump. But I was also wondering if you think the ravens will try to include Ray Rice more in this game. He didn't many carries last game after getting 20+ in week one.
James Walker (2:58 PM)
McGahee's return took away some of Rice's carries. Personally, I thought it was a great move to wait until the fourth to really hand Rice the ball with very fresh legs while the defense was tired.
I blame Crennel for the poor play. As a coach, he should be prepared for injuries by finding depth during training camp. He has poor play calling and clock management and obviously poor conditioning. Do you disagree? I think he should be fired.
James Walker (3:00 PM)
Brain, I believe the Browns are systematically failing in a lot of ways, coaching being one of them. The players aren't making plays either. As far as injuries, the Browns were lucky with them last year and very unlucky with them now.
If Joe Flacco continues to play decently in an offense trying to bring him along slowly, and the Ravens remain above .500, how do you see the team handling Troy Smith's return, assuming he is back in playing shape at some point in the middle of the season?
James Walker (3:01 PM)
If Flacco is still winning games and playing well, the job is his. At 2-0, he's all but solidified the position anyway. A win against the Steelers and it's a done deal.
mike (massillon ohio)
i feel that the steelers could pass against the ravens.. they did last year and it seemed to work what about on monday night
James Walker (3:02 PM)
Pittsburgh probably will have more success through the air Monday. But there were a lot of injuries to the Ravens defense last year. It should be tough for both offenses to score.
James Walker (3:03 PM)
Thanks again everyone for all the great questions. Don't forget to check out the AFC North blog throughout the week. -JW