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)
Let's get this party started.
Dan (lynchburg va)
The Ravens and Steelers are known for their intimidating and physical defenses. I don't think either team is dirty or aiming to injure players but they are trying to let teams know they are going to get hit hard. How do you think the possible new rule about suspensions for helmet to helmet hits will effect these two teams?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
I've talked to both the Ravens and the Steelers about the opposing defenses and neither team said the other was dirty. I recall a conversation I had with Ray Rice after the Steelers game, because Rice had a banged up knee. He said the Steelers play hard as always but never took a cheap shot at his knee, even though everyone knew he was hurt. Both teams are very physical and aggressive, but I don't think any either of those teams ever had the rep as being dirty.
Daniel (Glendora, Ca) [via mobile]
Wow, Rashard Mendenhall was really making some great blocks on Sunday. Did you notice a big improvement during training camp?
James Walker (4:04 PM)
Mendenhall has gotten better with his blocking but it was never a big area of weakness for him. I just think all around he is a better football player this year, and now people are starting to notice the little things.
Ryan (Florence, AZ)
Hey James, love the blog man......Do you think Marvin Lewis would have made a different 3rd and 12 call against the Bucs if he wasn't in the contract situation he is in now?
James Walker (4:06 PM)
I'm not sure what you're asking, Ryan. The contract situation had nothing to do with Lewis' call. If he could do it over again, I think he would run the football instead. But Lewis hasn't discussed his contract situation at all since the offseason.
James why does it seem like the ghost of Brandon Mcdonald has come back in the form of Eric Wright this season. I understand that conerback is a hard position to play. But Wright really seems to be struggling this year. I would rather Joe Haden play and make those mistakes then see Eric Wright make them.
James Walker (4:08 PM)
These are all interesting points. Wright played pretty well in coverage last year, but he is really struggling. The fact that he's not a great tackler also makes him look bad when he's not sticking to WRs and missing tackles. I wrote this week that if Wright struggles again against New Orleans, which is possible, the Browns may want to consider turning to Joe Haden after the bye week. Haden has improved since training camp and is starting to make plays.
Rich (Bellevue, WA)
James, adore the detailed-player-grading feature. Who are you planning on doing next?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
Rich, I appreciate it. I've received very good reaction from readers with that post, which is why I plan to make it a semi-regular feature. Unfortunately, I cannot do it as much as I would like, because it is really time consuming. Games are more than three hours long now, so rewinding and watching and grading every snap takes a long time to write up.
Correct me if I'm wrong but I think the true test with Colt McCoy is if he starts against the saints. His numbers against the Steelers were good but they did not have any real film to study him. Now the saints will get to see how he plays and study his film for a week. Thanks James
James Walker (4:12 PM)
Yes, Dave, consistency is the key. I live in Cleveland and fans already want to play Colt for the rest of the season. I'm taking the level-headed approach that he's earned at least one more start to see what he can do. Let the veterans get healthy, evaluate McCoy against the Saints, and then you have the bye week to determine which direction is best for the team.
It seems like everyone in Cincinnati has given up on Carson Palmer, do you think he is done as a starter after this year?
James Walker (4:14 PM)
"Done" is a strong word. The bar is high for Palmer because of who he is and where he was drafted. I don't think Palmer can be the QB we saw 4-5 years ago again. But I still think he's good enough to win games with. He just needs to play better.
Ed (Woodbridge, VA)
What do you think are the chances; percentage wise, the Ravens land Shawne Merriman?
James Walker (4:16 PM)
I don't like the percentage question, Ed. I checked on this earlier in the week and was told it's a possibility, but that's all I know right now.
BengalBacker (Columbus, Ohio)
B. Scott was doing really well until Leonard came back. Why have they limited his touches? I thought he was to get more?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
I think that's something the Bengals have to explore after the bye week. But also keep in mind Cedric Benson is running well also. As a backup, Scott has to wait his turn and there will be games when he's not in the plans.
James, is it safe to say Andre Smith will never be a Left Tackle?
James Walker (4:21 PM)
I don't like to say "never" in the unpredictable NFL. But the Bengals didn't have plans to use him at LT when they drafted Smith. I said last year it was a mistake to draft a right tackle that high and pay him left tackle money. Bengals fans ripped me for it, but I was correct.
Are the Bears the worst 4-2 team ever??
James Walker (4:24 PM)
I'm not sold on the Bears, especially if they can't pass protect for Jay Cutler. But there's only a handful of teams that I can say are legit threats right now.
Will Shaun Rogers get dealt or is he here for the rest of the year?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
The trade deadline passed 25 minutes ago, so it looks like Rogers will not be traded. The Browns could use the depth on the defensive line.
James, why does Rob Ryan consistently, week after week, blitz leaving his under talented defensive backfield on an island? He acts like he has Revis and Cromartie back their to go along with Polamalu and Ed Reed.
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Good question, Jesse. Some coaches believe in their system and won't change. The Ryans have always been ultra aggresive, the difference is Rex had superior talent than Rob, so Rex's system works better. But Cleveland's defense is playing hard and well for its talent level. The Browns get beat on a lot of big plays, but at least they are making a few the other way.
Ralph (las vegas)
I was not sold on Flozell Adams when pitt signed him but he seems to be doing a solid job am i right on that assesment?
James Walker (4:30 PM)
Many in Dallas said Adams was done. But when I saw him in training camp, he was in good shape and ready to play. His run blocking has been solid, and that's what Pittsburgh needed the first four games.
Shane ((Lancaster, Ohio))
I know it is a little early to be talking Draft, but in the case of Cleveland is it really? I was wondering if it would be wise for the Browns to find a reciever in free agency and address the aging defensive line and a true pass rusher in the first few rounds. What are your thoughts?
James Walker (4:31 PM)
My thoughts are it's too early to talk about the draft. But the Browns will have a top pick, so WR should be out of the question in the first round. That's never a good position to take that high.
Given the injuries to Cribbs and Massaquoi, will Carlton Mitchell see any playing time this week? And do you think his speed can help the Browns' offense any?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
Neither player has been ruled out yet, although I think there's a decent chance Massaquoi could miss Sunday's game. But the Browns played Chansi Stuckey and TE Evan Moore a lot in the Pittsburgh game, and I think those two have a chance to see more playing time than Carlton Mitchell this week.
Every one of the Steelers top 3 receivers got TD grabs last week. Is this what we can expect from Big Ben and the Steelers? Will they continue to spread the field or do you Ben developing a favorite in Wallace/Ward/Heath or even Mendenhall in the passing game?
James Walker (4:36 PM)
Yes, the Steelers will spread the ball around. Ben Roethlisberger has never been afraid to go to whoever is open. That is why Mike Wallace got so many chances as a rookie. Roethlisberger also went to rookie Emmanuel Sanders a couple times last week.
Philippe (Bristol, CT)
Sanders showed promise on Sunday - do you think he has a chance in bumping El for the number 3 spot?
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Maybe in time, but not immediately. The Steelers have a luxury of not rushing him in. If there's an injury he will be the next man up. But for now, all the receivers are playing pretty well.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When will we ever see an NFL Team who Plays their Home Games at a Super Bowl site in the Super Bowl?
James Walker (4:38 PM)
Not this year.
I can't help but think that a veteran QB does not throw that pass to Massaquoi. He was served on a silver platter to Harrison. I'm not trying to blame McCoy but that had bad news written all over it, James Harrison was locked in on that pass. Thoughts?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
It was a bad lead by Colt McCoy. But even veteran QBs lead their receivers into big hits. In the Baltimore game, Joe Flacco's throws led to several big hits on his WRs by the New England Patriots. It's part of the game.
Is there a problem with Antonio Brown? I expected to see him returning kicks on Sunday, but he was nowhere to be found.
James Walker (4:40 PM)
He was inactive, A.J. The Steelers felt Emmanuel Sanders has done well in practice and that he could help the offense, which he did. It was a numbers game as Pittsburgh could only dress so many WRs.
David (Columbus, OH)
Is Robaire Smith headed for the IR?
James Walker (4:42 PM)
There is a good chance, David. I'm hearing his back injury will keep him out for a while, if not for the entire season.
Michael (Durham, NC)
What's up with Willis McGahee? Is he hurt? Why didn't we try to get him going at all against the Pats, especially on goal-line situations?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
The Ravens said nothing was up with McGahee. His lack of playing time naturally made people think he could be traded, but that didn't happen either.
Pittsburgh's defense has long been considered elite in the NFL. Do you think the offense is there too, now? With so many weapons across the board it's scary to imagine them once they shake off the rust.
James Walker (4:46 PM)
I think Pittsburgh's offense has a chance to be Top 10, although statistically that probably not where they will finish this season because of Roethlisberger's suspension. Getting back to the power running game was very smart for Pittsburgh to do.
GS (Washington DC)
What do you think are going to be the biggest difficulties for the Steelers against Miami this week?
James Walker (4:50 PM)
Just playing on the road will be tough, GS. I think Miami is inconsistent but very dangerous on a given week. And the fact Pittsburgh plays the Saints the next week could provide a trap scenario.
Philippe (Bristol, CT)
Is Ben still a top 5 QB in the league?
James Walker (4:50 PM)
In my opinion, yes.
Adam Joseph (New York)
James, will there be football next season?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
Too much money to lose for all parties involved. Money talks.
Am I wrong to say I think the Browns are starting to get some talent? Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, Joe Haden, and maybe Colt McCoy aren't bad. They need more talent, but they are starting to get some players, aren't they?
James Walker (4:52 PM)
The Browns have some talent. But like I've been saying all along, they don't have enough. That is why Cleveland cannot play for four quarters with almost every team it played against this season.
BengalBacker (Columbus, Ohio)
Do you think we can get 2 teams from the AFC North into the playoffs again?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
Yes, the AFC North usually has a good chance of getting two teams in. But the AFC is pretty strong overall.
is T.O. or chad is the number 1 guy in cincy?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
Terrell Owens is getting the most opportunties, but I think that's partially because he's getting the most single coverage. That is why the Bengals signed Owens, because teams did the same last year and the passing offense had no answers.
John Shepherd (Dallas, Texas)
The Steeler's Harrison and Woodley get all the press outside of Pittsburgh; however, we think we have a 3rd superstar in Lawrence Timmons. Do you think before the year is over that the rest of the league will finally take notice of him?
James Walker (4:57 PM)
We wrote about Lawrence Timmons today in the AFC North blog. He's having a great season, and finally getting a full understanding of Dick LeBeau's defense to go with his tremendous athleticism.
Tyler (Canton, OH)
If Colt McCoy has a good game against the Saints (lets say 20-30, 250 yrds, 2 TDs, 1 int) do you think that the Browns should stick with him, or should they go back to their original plan and have him sit out the year?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
I think winning matters, too, Tyler. The Browns need to know if McCoy gives them the best chance to win. If Cleveland loses, then it has a lot of thinking to do during the bye week.
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 news and insight.