Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the NFL and what to expect from your team.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join James Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
James Walker (2:59 PM)
Let's talk some AFC North football, everyone. I'm sure everyone has tons of training camp questions.
Mike (Cleveland South (Houston))
Hey, James. Any update on the staus of the contracts of Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs?
James Walker (3:02 PM)
There have been some talks between Cribbs and the team, but nothing too significant to my knowledge. This may go down to the wire in terms of a player vs. team standoff. I haven't heard anything on Dawson. So I would be surprised if he got a new deal before the season.
Does the signing of OT Augustus Parrish symbolize and very LONG holdout between A. Smith and the Bengals?
James Walker (3:04 PM)
It's already getting to be a long holdout depending on your perspective. But I wouldn't put too much stock into this signing. Anthony Collins has been working in Smith's place all camp and the signing of Parrish doesn't change that.
Word out of Steeler camp is that Sweed has impressed - "night and day from last year, as they say" and that Ziggy has been "relentless" - what's your take on these two, local media hype, or are they for real?
James Walker (3:06 PM)
I have not been to Steelers camp yet but this is in line with everything I saw during spring practices. Sweed worked really hard in the offseason because he was pretty embarassed by what happened at the end of last season. Ziggy has a good motor and that's one of the reasons they drafted him.
rossy ross (NJ)
I'm surprised that no one signed Amani Toomer yet. He's older but was still effective as a complimentary WR last year, especially alongside Burress. Any word on where he may land?
James Walker (3:07 PM)
Toomer just signed today with the Kansas City Chiefs. No team in the AFC North, not even the Ravens, showed much interest in him.
How does Cedric Benson look so far? Do you think the Bengals have the ability to put together a solid ground game this year with Benson, Leonard and the rookie Scott?
James Walker (3:09 PM)
Benson looked good and I think this training camp will help. He's hitting the outside more on stretch plays and may have added a little burst compared to what I saw last year. But with that offensive line, the Bengals are still a question mark to put together a consistent running game.
Adrian (new york)
do you think the chargers will finally make it to the superbowl with the return of shawne merriman and the addition of larry english?
James Walker (3:11 PM)
The Chargers are the favs in the AFC West, but the conference overall is very deep with the Steelers, Patriots, Colts and Titans. The Chargers won't get past all these teams.
Ryan (Toledo, Ohio)
The Bengals are riding on big expectations this year with a lot of potential on the team. What stops this year's Bengals team from letting everyone down like the Browns did?
James Walker (3:12 PM)
I wouldn't compare the two, Ryan. The Bengals had four wins last year. They're more considered a sleeper, or a team which could surprise. The Browns had 10 wins in 2007 and were expected to do a lot in the AFC. They're different situations.
Jake (VA Beach)
Two-part Steelers Q: Can Holmes step into the #1 WR role with an aging Ward? And, can Parker return to his old form and be a #1 back again?
James Walker (3:14 PM)
Willie Parker is the No. 1 back in Pittsburgh until someone takes it. And Santonio Holmes does have the ability to be the lead receiver. He just needs to make more routine plays to increase his opportunities.
Does the long hold out for Andre Smith work in Favor of the Bengals if Anthony Collins turns out to be a better fit for the O-line?
James Walker (3:15 PM)
No holdout of a first-round pick works in favor of any team, Josh.
Can Mark Clayton finally step up this year and have a 1000 yd season or will demetrius williams out shine him can any reciever other then mason have a breakout year
James Walker (3:17 PM)
Don't expect 1,000 yards from Clayton. Derrick Mason is back and the Ravens just are not that type of offense. If Williams plays well, which he has so far in camp, Baltimore could be dangerous offensively.
Reuben (Erie Pa)
Do you think Troy Polamalu is at all overrated? Is he really in Ed Reed's league?
James Walker (3:18 PM)
Let's not go there this week. Ok?
Marty (Richmond )
How has Mangini fared in his first camp with Cleveland? Are the players buying into his system, style, etc?
James Walker (3:19 PM)
Too early to tell. There were some rough patches early this offseason but players eventually got use to the new way of things. Success and winning will all be factors.
Jason Hess (Moon PA)
Do you think the Secondary of the Steelers can stand up against Brady and company in New England?
James Walker (3:21 PM)
The Steelers don't play the Patriots this year unless they meet in the playoffs.
James, how did the Bengals defense look? I think they are going to be more fun to watch this year than the offense.
James Walker (3:23 PM)
It looks like they're ramping up the aggresiveness to get to the quarterback. If they're able to do get sacks this year, look out.
Who ends up getting the most carries/touches for Baltimore?
James Walker (3:24 PM)
Probably Ray Rice, especially if he holds onto the starting job. But all three running backs will play.
What are the odds that a team out of the AFC North makes it back to the Super Bowl?
James Walker (3:25 PM)
Four out of 16, or 25 percent.
Will the Browns be a better team this or is there still too many missing pieces?
James Walker (3:27 PM)
The bar is pretty low. The Browns only have to win five games to be a better team this year. They have a good chance to do that.
Another Bengals question. How's the battle for the starting safety spot between Ndukwe and Williams looking? Also the #3 receiver spot between Caldwell and Henry?
James Walker (3:29 PM)
The safety battle is really close. Both guys are making plays and I think Mike Zimmer will find a way to have both in at the same time in sub packages. Chris Henry has separated himself for the No. 3 receiver job and I would be surprised if he doesn't keep it in Week 1.
Mikey P (Boulder)
Hey, did any of the back-up Bengals QBs look like they had any game at all while Carson was sitting out?
James Walker (3:30 PM)
I wasn't very impressed with J.T. O'Sullivan or Jordan Palmer. If Carson goes down, it's going to be a long year in Cincinnati.
If they were to ever draft a WR with their first pick, would the Ravens go 'Big Threat' or 'Possession'?
James Walker (3:31 PM)
The Ravens usually go best available, whomever that may be.
Hayden Cook (Chambersburg PA)
Do you see Denis Dixon winning the 2nd string QB battle in Pittsburgh?
James Walker (3:33 PM)
It's still to be determined. But Dixon looks improved from his rookie season. Plus Charlie Batch has to prove he can bounce back from injury.
Jake M (md)
what do you predict the ravens record will be next season, and how far in the playoffs we will go
James Walker (3:35 PM)
The crystal ball is on the shelf. I'm still evaluating teams as I see them in training camp and the preseason. Plus, injuries are happening around the league almost daily.
Kevin Ryan (Pittsburgh PA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Will Lawrence Tommons become a stud this year as a starter?
James Walker (3:35 PM)
I'm pretty high on Lawrence Timmons. I think he has all the tools to be a great linebacker.
Shane (Los Angeles, CA)
Who do you think is a great sleeper pick from the AFC North for FFB?
James Walker (3:37 PM)
Ray Rice and Chris Henry.
Byron (Princeton, NJ)
Hi James, I was wondering what you thought about Bengals rookie DE Michael Johnson. Reports out of camp suggest he is impressing so far, even winning a few Oklahoma drills despite a reputation as being somewhat "soft." What are your thoughts on Johnson potentially helping solve the Bengals pass rushing woes this season?
James Walker (3:39 PM)
I like what I see so far. He has a good burst to the quarterback, which is what the Bengals need. He looks motivated right now but the coaches are going to have to stay on him.
Scott Shields (Running from a tackle)
Who/What would be your next three long-term "lock-ups" for the defending World Champs? Thanks
James Walker (3:41 PM)
I don't anticipate the Steelers doing anymore contract with their veterans this season. They are getting pretty close to the cap. Pittsburgh did a good job to get Miller signed.
Cassidy (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Fantasy Wise, Heath Miller or Todd Heap?
James Walker (3:43 PM)
Anthony (Mamaroneck, NY)
There are three new defensive coordinators in the North (Mattison, Ryan and Zimmer). What can we expect different schematically from them this fall?
James Walker (3:45 PM)
Mike Zimmer is not new, Anthony. Greg Mattison and Rob Ryan are, and of the two I think you're going to see a different way of doing things in Cleveland. The Browns were pretty conservative defensively and Ryan's 3-4 will be more attacking.
Any rookies starting for Baltimore?
James Walker (3:47 PM)
Michael Oher will start Week 1 at right tackle barring injury. Other than that, the rest of the draft picks are expected to provide depth.
Corey "Squirt" Ferris (Cinncy)
What would you think about the Probowl being between weeks 9 and 10 after teh NFL goes to 18 game seasons? Like every other sport does have it in the middle fo the season.
James Walker (3:49 PM)
That's a bad idea. The injury risk in football is too great to have your best players do something else in the middle of the season.
rutgersrahrah (weehawken, nj)
Do you think Brian Leonard get any playing time with the Bengals?
James Walker (3:52 PM)
Yes, the Bengals like Leonard's versatility. He will get some carries at backup tailback and should get some catches out of the backfield.
Chris_Henson (Lawrenceburg IN)
With the injury to Reggie Kelly what is the Bengals options now?
James Walker (3:54 PM)
The Bengals have good tight end depth behind Kelly with Ben Utecht and rookie Chase Coffman. Those two will have to fill the void.
Fionna "The Ferret" Wass (Middle Ohio)
My com padre "Squirt" and I have an argument each time he says that the NFL needs to lengthening the endzone to 20 yards like the CFL. I am a traditionalist and see no reason for chance. He thinks it would allow more scoring on passing plays. Can you end his nonsense for me please?!?!?!
James Walker (3:57 PM)
The endzone is fine 10 yards deep. Remember, field goals would be really long too if the league made that change. There's no reason to do that.
With Winslow gone is Rucker good enough to fill the viod?
James Walker (3:59 PM)
Robert Royal is the projected starter in Cleveland. He's not the receiving threat that Kellen Winslow is. So the Browns' tight ends will have a hard time replacing that production this year.
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Everyone thanks again for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog for constant updates in the division.