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 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Hello everyone. Let's get right to it and talk some football.
Charles :Columbus, Ohio
Big Steelers fan here. Have the Steelers learned anything from trying to defend their Super Bowl in 06? Big Ben has not made any headlines and the team is quietly going about their OTA's. Do you also think that all the attention the Pats are getting is making Tomlin's job of keep the teams attention on repeating that much easier?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Charles, the Steelers are much more prepared to defend their title this year. Ben's accident and Bill Cowher's contract played huge roles in 2006. Without those distractions this year, Pittsburgh should be a title contender as long as the team stays healthy.
Eric (Aberdeen, MD)
James! Do you think Ngata will get his well deserved recognition this year as a Pro Bowler and Elite DT? Also, Any word on Suggs contract talks?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
Most people "in the know" are already aware that Haloti Ngata is one of the top defensive linemen at age 25. With Kelly Gregg back and healthy, I think you're going to see a monster year from him stat wise, because Ngata will have more freedom to do other things while Gregg can clog up the middle.
Jamille Houston TX
Why was Graham Harrell not drafted but josh freeman was and harrell's career was alot better than freemans.
James Walker (4:06 PM)
Jamille, I can't speak for every team, but NFL people felt Harrell was mostly a product of the system at Texas Tech. It's going to be up to him to prove doubters wrong. Josh Freeman didn't put up similar numbers but has a lot of qualities NFL scouts like, such as size, mobility and a strong arm.
Has Brady Quinn all but won the QB job?
James Walker (4:07 PM)
Xander, nothing is going to be decided until both quarterbacks face stiffer competition in training camp and the preseason. But I think the system Cleveland is trying to run offensively fits Quinn better, which could help him this summer.
JW, The ravens O-line looks solid on paper which has been a long time coming but I have some concerns at tailback. Mcgahee and rice could become injured easily and Mcclain is back at fullback. Is there any concern there? What is your take on Cedric Peerman, the 6th rounder's prospects for 2009?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
I don't think there are too many worries with the Ravens' running game, Greg. They have a lot of capable runners, which is a good problem to have. No one is going to rush for 1,200 yards in Baltimore this year, but you may see two or three guys gain 500-800 yards.
Lt. Markowski (Afghanistan)
Hey James good work on the blog, is there any way the Steelers can get around that bloating Willie Colon deal? What are the rules of the franchise tag they placed on him?
James Walker (4:12 PM)
Thanks for checking in from overseas and it's an honor that you took the time to chat Lt. Max Starks has the franchise tag for more than $8 million, and unless a long-term deal can be reached, it's going to stay at that number. The Steelers will try to negotiate this offseason, but they also don't want to overpay just to remove the tag. So it's going to be a tricky negotiation.
What are the chances Sweed has the breakout season similar to Plax did earlier in his career?
James Walker (4:15 PM)
Limas Sweed is not going to get as many opportunities as Plaxico Burress did with Pittsburgh. Remember, Sweed is only the No. 3 receiver on the team. That's why I think he has a good chance to be successful, because Pittsburgh is asking for more, but not too much of Sweed in his second season.
Explain to me please why the 09 Ravens will not be the 08 Browns, i.e. a team that rides a QB teams are unfamilar with, low expectations and a weak schedule for a season, but falls back down to earth the next year?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
The Ravens have had trouble lately of putting together great seasons back-to-back. So nothing is promised. But what they didn't have then is a steady answer at QB, and I think Joe Flacco will be the best signal caller they've had and a reason the team could stay steady in 2009.
Eric, Los Angeles
Hey James, great blog (possibly the best source for up-to-date info on my Brownies that I've found)! I'm interested in finding out how James Davis is looking, as well as the rest of the Browns RBs. Can you shed some light?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
Thanks, Eric. Davis has been decent. He still makes some mental errors, like forgetting his assignment. But all the rookies are doing that right now. He has a decent burst to the line of scrimmage, but I need to see him with pads on before I get a really good read on him.
Hey JW, any chance the Bengals will shop Chow-Jow? I'd love to see him catching passes from Cutler!
James Walker (4:22 PM)
I don't know who "Chow-Jow" is? The Bengals will not trade Chad Ochocinco this year, either.
James, thanks for the chat. Question about the Palmer-Ocho situation. It seemed to me the first quote from Palmer was more about Ocho not being at the voluntary camp, not being a member of the team... and it got blown out of proportion the opposite of how I read his quote. Is it just me, or is it really not a big situation?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
I wouldn't put too much into this until things are mandatory. If Chad Ochocinco skips mandatory minicamp this month and/or the start of training camp, then there is a problem. The Bengals seem confident that won't happen.
Thank you for taking my question!
James Walker (4:25 PM)
No problem. Who is "Chow-Jow?"
Burwell (Addison, PA)
Is it me, or are the Ravens not going to miss Bart Scott all that much? I don't deny his talent, but when you have Ngata, Pryce, and Gregg tying up blockers and Ray Lewis right next to you things become much easier.
James Walker (4:28 PM)
I think Baltimore will miss some things about Scott. There is a certain swagger/nastiness quality that Scott brought to the defense that I'm not sure a young player like Tavares Gooden has. Gooden looks to be a good player if he stays healthy, though.
James love the work. Quick question: Do you see the Steelers addressing Casey Hampton's contract at the end of this season? He still plays at a high level but is getting old and they have won w/ Hoke.
James Walker (4:31 PM)
The Steelers are likely going to stay where they are with contracts unless they can get the franchise tag off Max Starks. If that happens, my guess is TE Heath Miller and S Ryan Clark are among the first targets to get extensions.
Why not Braylon for Boldin?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Both players want mega contracts, and both teams they play for don't want to hand out mega contracts.
Todd (Massillon, OH)
I know "strength of schedule" is not a huge factor in league play, but with the AFC North's schedule, could ALL teams be fairly competitive in the North. I'm sure Pitt & Balt SHOULD easily win 10-12 each. Cle & Cin, maybe 8-9???
James Walker (4:34 PM)
All four teams would have to dominate its non-division schedule for each team to finish with at least nine wins. It's very hard to do.
Should there be any concern that they aren't letting Sepulveda punt yet?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
No, not yet. The Steelers are being protective and I don't feel it's a big deal. Sepulveda hurt himself in training camp so he is still less than a year removed from the injury.
Jeff (Augusta, GA)
I haven't heard much about the Steelers' picks other than Hood and Wallace. Can you tell me anything about the other rookies, specifically the two CBs and the two O-linemen?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
Good question, Jeff. Cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett have shown some flashes in minicamp, at least from what I've seen. Lewis has pretty good size and looks like a Cover 2-type cornerback. Burnett has some return ability and may help there. I try not to gauge o-linemen too much in non-contact camps.
Max Starks Is Greedy
James, I'm calling it now, Joe Burnett will be a stud returner
James Walker (4:41 PM)
Burnett's teammate Max Starks agrees.
How much talent, experience, and leadership does Foote bring to the Lions?
James Walker (4:42 PM)
Larry is going to be a good addition to Detroit. The Steelers probably didn't let him do everything he's capable of, because he was the fourth-best (or even the fifth) linebacker on the team. In Detroit, he may be one of the top defenders the team has.
Steve (Phoenix, AZ)
Hi James, you've got a great AFC North Blog. What do you think the Bengals defense is going to look like with Malaluga, Roy Williams, and Tank Johnson joining the squad?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
Those three additions tell me one thing: Cincinnati wants to be more physical. The Bengals always had talent, but they were mostly a finesse team in a physical division. I think the coaching staff is starting to realize that if you can't win on either line of scrimmage, you're not going to beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
Stringer Bell (Baltimore, MD)
Who has the best and worst locker-room nicknames in the AFC North?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
I can't really think of best and worst. But I think most locker-room nicknames are pretty cool. Because it reminds us that football is sports and fun.
Rachel (Cleveland OH)
Will James Davis compete for the #1 RB slot at any time during this season?
James Walker (4:50 PM)
I addressed Davis a little earlier in the chat, Rachel. He still has a lot to learn. Jamal Lewis fits the system well in Cleveland and is expected to be the top back.
Do you think the Ravens have any interest in Matt Jones?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
I have not heard anything, no.
Any chance AQ Shipley makes the Steelers and sees the field some this year?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
Shipley has a decent chance for a seventh rounder because of the position he plays. If he makes the team, there is probably a small chance he plays in 2009 unless injuries take a toll on the offensive line.
Any chance the Ravens trade Suggs before the season if they cannot sign him? It would cost way to much to tag him for a 3rd straight year.
James Walker (4:55 PM)
The Ravens want to keep Terrell Suggs long term. He is their best pass rusher, which is hard to find. You don't trade impact players like that.
Do you see Mendenhall getting more carries than Parker by the end of the season if he stays healthy? Seems Parker can break one every once in a while, but seems to have too many 1 and 2-yard runs.
James Walker (4:57 PM)
If both players are healthy, Willie Parker will be the starter and get more carries. He is the proven player. Rashard Mendenhall could be the guy in 2010 if he shows this year what he can do.
How much of an impact will the loss of Matt Stover have on the Ravens since a lot of there games are decided by FGs?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
This might be an area of concern, Ben. I wasn't all that impressed with the two kickers when I saw them up close last month. But it was May, which offers plenty of time to improve. If I don't see Graham Gano and Steve Hauschka kicking better by July, that will be a major red flag.
Is discipline enough to turn around the browns defense? I hear how mangini is working on the little things and mental errors. Can they go from bad defense to good with the new players and more focus???
James Walker (5:02 PM)
It can't hurt Sarah. Talent counts for a lot in this league, so eventually Cleveland is going to need to upgrade with more impact players. But having a smart, scrappy defense this season would be a good start over the units the Browns have had in recent years.
James Walker (5:04 PM)
Thanks again for all the great questions. Send any more questions you may have to our AFC North inbox, and don't forget to check out my blog.