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 (4:00 PM)
Every AFC North team will be in camp by the end of the week. So let's get this party underway.
Hey James enjoy your blog, I was a little surprised by your ranking for the Steelers (17). The Steelers seem to play better as the underdog and enjoy sneaking up on unsuspecting teams. Do you think the Steelers have any shot at making the play-offs?
James Walker (4:02 PM)
I knew some in Steeler Nation would not be happy with the voting. I actually had them two spots higher (No. 17) than the final vote (No. 19). But the power ranking was for where the Steelers stand right now. Without Ben Roethlisberger, they are only a middle-of-the-pack team in my opinion. When he returns, I'm sure Pittsburgh's power ranking will go up.
Is A. Bryant not doing well in his rehab? I don't see how they figure playing 85, Bryant and T.O at the same time.
James Walker (4:04 PM)
There is always enough room for three receivers, Pete. Most teams have three-receiver packages in its offense. All three would see the field, it's just a matter of who starts. My guess is it would be Owens in this case. I think the person hurt the most would be Andre Caldwell and/or Jordan Shipley.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
What is the best & the worst NFL Stadium that you have been to?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
There are a lot of good stadiums and some bad ones. So it's really a personal preferences. But for me, I like Lambeau Field a lot and probably like the black hole in Oakland the least. I remember one time water was leaking onto my cpu in the press box there.
Simon (Manchester, UK)
J-Dub...when can we expect the AFC North first rounders to sign their contracts?
James Walker (4:09 PM)
I think most will be signed by the end of this week or early next week. It's not just an AFC North issue, it's a league-wide issue. The biggest concern I have right now is for Joe Haden. He has the biggest deal to negotiate.
Hi James, thanks for doing the chat.How worried should Ravens fans be that Cody didn't pass the conditioning test or should we worry at all?
James Walker (4:12 PM)
I think after the initial news wears off, it won't be a huge deal. Considering his size and reputation, I don't think it was a total surprise to the Ravens. But it would have been a nice first impression for Cody to show up to his first training camp in shape. But this is basically following the same scouting report that's been out on him since the draft.
The Ravens have been hyped for a bit now, and it appears as though they've hit a rough patch with the secondary and rookies combining for injuries, pup lists, and lard (*cough*Cody*cough*). Do you think these new factors will significantly contribute to the team's post-season chances?
James Walker (4:14 PM)
It's still July. The Ravens have a lot of time to work out these issues, and it's actually better than these issues didn't come up during the season when they have real games to play. The Ed Reed injury is probably the most serious threat, but I think overall the Ravens will be able to work through everything else in the short term.
Mike (Parma, Ohio)
Who will get the bulk of the carries this year, Hardesty or Harrison or will they split?
James Walker (4:16 PM)
Training camp will go a long way to determining that. Both players will get carries regardless of who wins the job. Jerome Harrison may have the job early, but I wouldn't be surprised if Montario Hardesty is the starter this year at some point.
Which training camps are you attending this year?
James Walker (4:18 PM)
All of them. I want to see each team to get a good feel for the entire division.
Hi James, thanks for chatting. Do you think Del Homme will bounce back this year and have a good season for the Browns? Or will it be another lackluster year for Cleveland QBs?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
When I talk to the Browns, they seem optimistic about Jake Delhomme bouncing back. I wouldn't rule it out, but I'm more skeptical than the team is.
There have been reports that Joe Haden has struggled in mini-camp. Do you think he will start at CB?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
Haden was a step slow and unsure of himself in minicamp, in my opinion. That's what I saw with my own eyes. Unless he makes major leaps in training camp, which is always possible, I don't see him earning a starting job right away.
Chris (Broadview Heights, OH)
I know the season is still about a month and some change away but how important is it that the Browns are able to win at least one of their first two games vs. Tampa and KC? The schedule gets real rocky after that.
James Walker (4:22 PM)
It's extremely important, Chris. These are two games the Browns have a chance to win and may even be favored in. A 2-0 start would help a lot in terms of morale. An 0-2 start would go the opposite way, obviously.
Brett (West Virginia)
JW, if you had to choose one player to keep after this year... either Cedric Benson or Jonathon Joseph, which would you keep? I would probably keep JJo but thats a tough decision for sure.
James Walker (4:24 PM)
Always go with the quality cornerback. There are not a lot of them out there. There's plenty of running backs. But you also have to factor in money. I'm sure these players won't come at the same rate.
Do you think its that big a deal that Ben is out 4 to 6 weeks when steelers like to win by the D keeping it close anyways? Reed is a good kicker and as long as they play good D and pound the ball I think they will be just fine.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
I'm really surprised by the degree Steeler Nation has dismissed Ben Roethlisberger's importance to the team. Are we watching the same games? Roethlisberger is a great QB.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
And QB is the most important position on the field.
Do you think the TO experiment will work in Cincy?
James Walker (4:27 PM)
Yes, I think it would. I wouldn't say T.O. is a fit for every NFL team. But I think Cincy is one that could work out for both parties.
James, what do you think about the Steelers receiving corps? It looks like Ward and Wallace are obviously locked in as numbers 1 and 2, but whom do you think grabs that third spot? thanks.-j
James Walker (4:29 PM)
Antwaan Randle El is probably the guy. The Steelers have some other young receivers that may challenge. But I haven't seen enough of players like Emmanuel Sanders to know just yet.
How was the vaca
James Walker (4:30 PM)
Everything was cool. I had a good time. But I'm also ready and excited to get back to work.
Dan (Owings Mills, MD)
Do the Ravens trade Troy Smith?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
For the right price, it could happen. I'm just not sure Baltimore can get the right price unless there is a major injury at QB around the league.
Hey James, do you see Joe Flacco going from a servicable quaterback to a good quarterback this year?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Personally, I already view Joe Flacco as a good quarterback. I've said before that he's going to be the real deal. What he has to do this year is take the next step to be a great quarterback.
JW, I'm going with some friends for the first time to the Bengals training camp this weekend. Are players really accessible? Is it interesting for a "novice" fan to watch? Will you be there for me to stop by and say hello and thanks for the good work?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
Thanks for the good words. But I won't be around until next week. The Bengals will be my second stop in training camp this summer. The players are pretty accessible there. It's not a big stadium and most will sign autographs.
James - Which team has the nicest training camp location and facilities?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
It's close between the Ravens and Steelers. There's a lot to like about both training camp sites.
Hey James do you think there is more wrong with A. Bryant than the Bengals have said? Or do you think T.O. was still there so they made a play for him?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
Well, Bryant hasn't progressed as well as they would like. That's pretty clear. Plus, T.O. still being available means Cincy can get him at a cheaper rate than in March. I think both factors are in play.
Mark (Harrison, AR)
Would the addition of T.O. to Cincy necessarily spell doom for Matt Jones?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
I don't think Matt Jones makes the team either way. He wasn't very impressive earlier this offseason. Maybe that will change in training camp.
Will (Nashville, TN)
Is there much wiggle room at other positions to allow the Bengals to keep an extra receiver or CB, especially if they sign Owens? Seems like either way they will be letting some decent talent go at both positions after final cuts.
James Walker (4:42 PM)
The Bengals can keep seven WRs if they want. But it will come at the expense of an extra lineman or DB. It's really a numbers game more than anything.
JW, Do you ever partake in tailgaiting when you go to games? If so which team had the best tailgate?
James Walker (4:44 PM)
I do not tailgate. I get to the stadium early and get to work. I walk past them all the time, but I don't know which is better or worse.
Mike (Lexington, KY)
Which AFC North press box has the best food? The Worst?
James Walker (4:45 PM)
You all are funny today.
Can the Ravens win the Super bowl without Ed Reed?
James Walker (4:46 PM)
Without him playing the entire year? I don't think so. The Ravens will need him on the field at some point.
Josh (Owings Mills, MD)
In light of recently confirmed DB setbacks and the scary fact that Chris Carr might start at CB week 1, do you think the Ravens might call up Frank Walker? All in all, he did have some nice plays last year although he was known as a penalty machine. Carr can't even keep up with a receiver much less interfere with him.
James Walker (4:47 PM)
I should write a blog about that! I'm sure Ravens fans would appreciate that idea.
Hey James what do you think of browns wide reciever Carlton Mitchell? Seems like he is pretty raw but he is a pretty big reciever and the depth at wide reciever for the browns is pretty thin.
James Walker (4:48 PM)
It's early, but I like what I see from Mitchell. He has good size and pretty good speed. I think he could be a sleeper in Browns camp as a sixth-round pick.
as a female and a huge football fan I am curious which AFCN team, in your experience, has the most vocal female fan base?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
Unofficially, I found the Steelers to have the most vocal female fans. But it may be because they have the most fans period.
How long till the Browns can contend. 1-3, 3-5?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
I'd say the Browns are at least two years away from contending. A big question is if they're going to start over with a new coaching staff next year? That would be another revolving door.
any word on how peyton hillis looks at running back for the browns?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
Hillis missed all of minicamp this year. So I will have to get a closer look in training camp.
if mangini can not get the job done in the first few weeks of the season do you see Holmgren stepping back on the field to take over?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
I don't envision Mike Holmgren taking the field this year. If he comes back to coaching, I think he would put more thought into it and start fresh, instead of taking over a losing team that would be going nowhere.
What team does Troy Reed play for?
James Walker (4:55 PM)
If T.O. goes to cincy, should Browns fans put up the "T.O. has B.O." banner again?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
I'm sure he'd rip it down.
Justin (Sarasota, FL)
I thought Troy Reed played for Baltiburgh! LOL!
James Walker (4:58 PM)
That's Ed Polamalu. Get it right.
How good is the Cincy o-line?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
The Bengals' O-line is very good in the running game, and I would say average in pass protection. I think Andre Smith could help with the latter, but he needs to get healthy.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates.
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