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 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:01 PM)
Hello everyone. I'm in between two-a-days with the Cleveland Browns today and wanted to take some time to chat with everyone about the AFC North. Let's get started.
Traci Habennicht (Ever Rat,WA)
Is it possible that Braylon Edwards' career has fallen so far so fast, or can he stage a major comeback under the new coaching regime?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
Traci, I would not count Braylon Edwards out by any means. He's only 26 and in the prime of his career. Last year he played with four different quarterback and still got more than 800 yards. He looks good so far in training camp. So if one of Cleveland's quarterbacks can get him the football, I think he will be fine.
Ryan Stuteville (Waukesha,WI)
Is Ray Rice ready to become a lead tailback or will Willis McGahee make a push to get the starting role back?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
Ryan, Rice will not have as much pressure on him as people may think. Right now he's the starter, but he's still going to share carries with Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain. My guess is whoever has the hot hand on a given week will get a majority of the carries. But it appears Rice will get the first crack at it if he holds onto the starting job.
John Milton (Columbus,OH)
With a full-time starting gig and very little competition on a team that desperately needs him to perform, can Cedric Benson show that his failure in Chicago was simply a fluke?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
Benson spent several years in Chicago, so I wouldn't say it was a fluke. He's going to have to prove that he can be a primary back capable of 1,000 yards. Playing in this division with Cincinnati's offensive line, I have my doubts. But the Bengals seem optimistic.
Marion Estevez (Glendale,AZ)
Will either Demetrius Williams or Mark Clayton step up for the Ravens this year?
James Walker (4:08 PM)
With Derrick Mason back, he helps Clayton and Williams tremendously. Clayton can go back to his natural role as the No. 2 receiver, while Williams is the favorite right now for the No. 3 job. In Baltimore's offense, those two just need to make plays when the opportunities present itself. They should see a lot of single coverage this year with Mason back and Baltimore's physical rushing attack.
John (Sanibel Island, FL)
Which Steelers rookie has been most impressive thus far? Do you think anybody from this rookie class has the opportunity to see the field and make an impact this season?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
I've been most impressed with third-round receiver Mike Wallace. I think he brings a speed element to Pittsburgh's offense and his hands and routes were much more polished than I expected. Evander Hood also should see the field as a backup to both d-end spots.
James, what do you make of Chad's amazing attitude change in Cincinnati?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
Like everything else with Chad Ochocinco, I think it's always subject to change. He is legitimately happy and optimistic about this year's team, and he has worked hard himself. But if things go poorly, Ochocinco's will be among the first to voice his displeasure.
Were you surprised the Browns didn't use an earlier pick on a RB? I thought Shonn Greene would have been the perfect Manginus RB.
James Walker (4:15 PM)
Not really. Eric Mangini had to address a lot of problem areas on the team, and the offensive line and wide receiver were definitely at or near the top of the list. Cleveland did draft a running back late in James Davis who looks like he may surprise some people this season.
SteelCityTA (Pittsburgh, PA)
James,How did Parker look in comparison to Mendenhall and the other RB's during your recent visit in Latrobe?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
Willie Parker didn't practice much during my visit. He suffered from back spasms and sat out much of my time there. Rashard Mendenhall got a lot of reps in place of Parker and showed good feet and the ability to catch the football. I'm still in wait-and-see mode with him. Mendenhall needs to run well in the preseason.
Jon (San Diego)
It seems like Alex Mack is running a lot of laps because mental mistakes, especially after being proclaimed for his intelligence. Is this a cause for worry? Or just normal of a rookie going up against Rogers?
James Walker (4:20 PM)
Good question, Jon. It's early for Mack and Cleveland's coaches are throwing a lot at him. Playing center for Eric Mangini is no easy task. On top of that you have to face Shaun Rogers everyday. The combination is making the rookie look bad on most days, but it should make him a better player in the long run.
Will Odom and Geathers be able to provide a legit pass rush or will Michael Johnson take one of their spots.
James Walker (4:22 PM)
Michael Johnson is playing very well in camp, Matt. Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers are the starters, but the Bengals are going to have a hard time keeping Johnson off the field if he continues to flash. The problem for Johnson has always been motivation throughout the course of an entire season.
Kevin (Solon, Ohio)
I know you are high on Lawrence Timmons this year, what was your impression of him in Latrobe this past week?
James Walker (4:24 PM)
I listed James Harrison, Timmons, Mike Wallace and punter Daniel Sepulveda as the four players I thought stood out most during my visit to Steelers camp.
Do the Browns have the best CB tandem in the division?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
No, they don't.
SteelCityTA (Pittsburgh, PA)
James - Whats your prediction for thurday night? Come on...spill it :) I'll See U there buddy! I cant wait for the rematch...by the way we won the SB on my birthday last year...what a gift huh!
James Walker (4:26 PM)
You really want a prediction for a preseason game? It doesn't even count in the standings. Happy belated birthday.
SprungOnSports (Long Island)
How did the Steelers o-line look when you saw them? Are they finally going to be a good unit this year and keep Ben on his feet?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
I thought the o-line was decent at times and shaky during other times. Pittsburgh needs to work on its consistency there and also stay healthy. I'm not sure how high the ceiling is for this group, even with another year together.
Does Ray M see the field much for the Bengals this year?
James Walker (4:30 PM)
He is another player the Bengals are going to have a hard time keeping off the field. Rey is physical and already made some punishing hits early in camp. You can't keep a guy like that on the bench, even if he isn't a starter.
Adam R (Connecticut)
What back-up QB will be best fit and most ready to step up and lead their team if the starter is injured?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
Probably the loser of the Cleveland Browns' quarterback competition between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson.
Is the Bengals move of Shirley from DT to OG a sign that they are comfortable at DT, or that they are reaching for help on the OL, or both?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
The Bengals have a lot of defensive linemen and there has already been some talk that trades are possible there before the end of the preseason. The o-line is not nearly as deep.
I keep hearing about the laps Mack is running for errors before the snap. However, I haven't heard much about how he looks after the snap. How did he look today?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
Mack has been up and down, in my opinion. He is getting a lot of reps with the twos, which means he faces Shaun Rogers a lot. And Rogers has been dominant in most of those matchups.
JW, be honest, are you hoping to be on Hard Knocks when the first episode comes out Wednesday? Also, do you have any inside info as to what battles the "season" will center around?
James Walker (4:38 PM)
I might be on Hard Knocks as a passer by. But I'm not sure exactly how I feel about it, whether it's cool or not. I get to do tv fairly often with ESPN, so it wouldn't be any different. They are taking a ton of footage everyday, so HBO could really pick and choose whatever it likes. I know they followed Chad Ochocinco around a lot.
James Walker (4:39 PM)
I also get the sense the network is interested in Mike Brown, who is a central figure with the Bengals.
I know this isn't your forte, but for fantasy football purposes, will there actually be three dependable D's this season from the AFC North? Pitt and Balt are always a mainstay, but I think the Bengals could be pretty solid on D
James Walker (4:41 PM)
The Bengals are a bit risky. I would take some other defenses with a proven track record like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia, etc.
Gene (San Juan,PR)
Do you see Chris Henry emerging as a numbber 2 wr with the Bengals?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
Not unless there is an injury. The Bengals paid Laveranues Coles a lot of money this offseason and he will be the starter. Henry will still contribute.
You are at the Browns Training Camp this week. Has there been anything that has suprised you about this years team in comparison to last years?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
I'm surprised by how quickly the culture has changed. Eric Mangini butted heads with some people early, but it's already official that he's the boss and calling the shots. I thought there would be more clashing of personalities going into the season.
The name Coye Francies is starting to surface in Cleveland Browns news. Is this sixth round pick making a push for a starting job?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
Not for a starting job, but more so for a roster spot. He's an aggresive player and this time of year that is always going to stand out.
Tanner (Moorefield WV)
Do you think the Bengals will be able to squeeze out 8 wins this year with Carson Palmer returning and the additions of Lavurneus Coles and Ray Maualuga?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
Yes. Health permitting, the Bengals have a good chance to double their win total from last year. But they will need some additional things to fall their way to finish with a winning record this year.
alex (Milwakuee Wis)
can the lions make the playoffs with there great lb core
James Walker (4:51 PM)
The Detroit Lions will not make the playoffs, Alex. That would take arguably the greatest turnaround in NFL history.
Simon Vila (Portland OR)
Over the past 6 years Ravens after a winning season usually fall off? This going to be true this year
James Walker (4:52 PM)
Baltimore has never had a steady quarterback, which is why Ravens fans didn't know what to expect year to year. If Joe Flacco avoids a sophomore slump, the Ravens have a chance to break that streak.
Do you ever get embarrassed by the fact that you have to cover the Bengals and Browns?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
Not at all, Hambert. It doesn't matter to me who wins or loses. I just present information and analysis on why AFC North teams win or lose.
Kevin (Solon, Ohio)
Was there any indication of a front runner for short yardage running back in Latrobe?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
The Steelers are using a combination of backs in that role: Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Summers, etc. The team is still feeling that out.
Chris (Ann Arbor, MI)
Which camps have the most spectators?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
The Pittsburgh Steelers by far. Although I haven't been to Baltimore Ravens camp yet, I doubt they could top the turnout numbers Pittsburgh had over the weekend. I was in Westminster last year and there was a good turnover, but not as many as Latrobe.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks for your time. I have to get back to training camp to check out the Cleveland Browns. Check back to the AFC North blog for constant updates.
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