Chat with Ashley Fox
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN.com NFL columnist Ashley Fox stops by to chat.
Fox joined ESPN.com in 2011 after 11 years as a writer and columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she covered the National Football League, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Philadelphia 76ers. She also has worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and Sports Illustrated. A North Carolina native, Fox lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, daughter and son.
Send your questions now and join Fox on Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Ashley Fox (1:00 PM)
Good afternoon everybody. Hope you had a great weekend. Thanks for joining me. Let's get started.
Rich (New Jersey)
With the Vikings getting a new home, who'll be the one to go to Los Angeles - the Chargers, Rams or Jaguars? Wouldn't it be ironic if Rams move back to Los Angeles.
Ashley Fox (1:03 PM)
Yes it would, Rich. Now that Minnesota is off the table, the focus has shifted to which team might relocate, either to L.A. or elsewhere. St. Louis is atop the list, as you suggested. They are having stadium issues of their own and can potentially be free from their lease in 2015. If you're handicapping the race, I'd put the Rams up there.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the Best NFL Team in 2012?
Ashley Fox (1:05 PM)
For me, I can't pick a "best" team in May. Too much will happen between now and the start of the season. But I went back and looked at our most recent power rankings, post draft, and it went like this: Giants, Patriots, Packers, Ravens, Niners. For many voters, including myself, the Giants get the top spot as the defending champs. But I like what the Pats and Pack did on defense in the draft. They will be the early favorites to win their respective conferences.
Good afternoon Ashely, What is your opinion on the Panthers' chances on making the playoffs (based on the paper information)? I see them finishing ahead of Atlanta and New Orleans if the LB corps of Carolina and DL stay healthy and play like they are capable of playing. The offense speaks for itself in Carolina. However, it looks like the special teams could be a strength for the Panthers this year, as opposed to last year when they lost the Bears game due to not being able to stop Hester. Thoughts?
Ashley Fox (1:08 PM)
Well, Jeff, I think the division is loaded and the Saints are going to be there, even with all of the issues they're facing. Atlanta has gotten better this offseason, and it will be interesting to see how Matt Ryan and Mike Smith handle the pressure. This is a big year for both of them. So the Panthers are going to have to jump ahead of them. No one wanted to face Carolina's offense down the stretch. The jumped from one of the worst offensive teams to one that averaged 25.4 points per game, tied for fifth best in the league. Scoring that many points certainly helps out the D. So, playoffs? We will see. The NFC is stacked.
Gary (The Woodlands, TX)
What?s the deal with Cedric Benson? Sure seems like things have dried up for him. I would have bet money on it that he would have been signed or at a minimum been contacted by a team or two. Any word on his latest happenings?
Ashley Fox (1:11 PM)
It's interesting, isn't it? Benson still being on the street is another example of how teams aren't valuing backs as much anymore. There are probably a couple things in play here. He will be 30 in December. He got a lot of carries in Cincinnati. He wasn't involved in the passing game. That said, at some point, either when a back goes down with an injury or when teams realize they need another running back, I would expect Benson will get a shot somewhere else, even if he is only in a role where he would get 10-12 carries.
Al (Wausau, WI)
Ashley, I hope you had a great Mother's Day yesterday! Given that the Vikings drafted at least 3 defensive backs, how would you currently assess the quality of their defensive secondary? Do you feel it may be significantly improved from last year?
Ashley Fox (1:14 PM)
Thanks, Al, I did. And what? No stadium talk? It's been all stadium all the time for your Vikings. Given what the Vikings did in the draft, picking three defensive backs with their first seven picks, they obviously knew the secondary needed an upgrade. Frazier said both Notre Dame rookies will have a chance to win the starting safety jobs. But they are only rookies. As we've discussed here in past weeks, the Vikings are in rebuilding mode. So you will have to be patient. They certainly hope Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson and Robert Blanton develop. Used high picks on all those guys.
Ben (KC) [via mobile]
Happy Monday my question is in your opinion the Chiefs win the AFC West if .....
Ashley Fox (1:16 PM)
... Matt Cassel plays lights out. Kansas City is one of the deepest teams heading into 2012, but it all comes down to the QB (as it always does). Going to be a fun division to watch though, isn't it?
Derek (New Jersey)
Do you believe Vince Young was unfairly criticized last year? Also, do you think he can take over as starter? 31-19 as starter in his career. All he does is win!
Ashley Fox (1:18 PM)
Thanks Derek, and just FYI, you only need to post a question once. I will get to as many as I can. Young took some understandable heat for the "dream team" comment, sure. But he didn't play that great in his three starts for the Eagles. Had a nice game against the Giants. But a starter? I don't see him winning the job in Buffalo.
How do you see the Offensive skill position players ending up in New England? Loaded at receiver and have 4 solid running backs plus the full backs and tight ends. Some guys have to go, who will it be?
Ashley Fox (1:20 PM)
That's a great question, Matthew, and that's why we have minicamp and training camp. It's going to come down to which guys Brady likes the best and trusts the most. But you're right, they are loaded offensively. As I mentioned earlier, had a nice draft, too.
what are the chances that we will see a new QB for the egales next year
Ashley Fox (1:23 PM)
Without the benefit of a crystal ball, it's impossible to say. Obviously this is a huge year for Michael Vick. It's going to come down to a couple of things. Can he stay healthy? Can he limit turnovers? Can the Eagles win? Vick hasn't played a full season in a while and still takes too many chances (to slide or not to slide). Force my hand and I say he is back in 2013, although with Reid. This Eagles team is loaded offensively.
how many wins do you see a team has to get to win the nfc east
Ashley Fox (1:25 PM)
To stay in the NFC East for a minute, I'm going to say 10. Still crazy that the Giants won it with nine last year. But as you know, this division beats up each other pretty good. Dallas, Philly and New York are all going to be in the mix. Washington is going to be better with RG3 and the other upgrades they've made. I would expect it to come down to the wire again, as it did last season.
Ashley, how do you think Ben Roethlisberger will transition into Todd Haley's offense? Also, how do you foresee the running back situation playing out, with Rashard Mendenhall working back from a torn ACL?
Ashley Fox (1:29 PM)
That's going to be a huge storyline for the Steelers, Kasey. They are both professionals and it is in their best interest to make things work. But it will be a transition, no doubt, especially for Ben. As for Mendenhall, it's going to be tough for him, given when he tore the knee up. It's a tough injury, particularly for a player who needs to change direction. Most guys say that even if they get back to playing relatively early (less than a year), they don't feel back to themselves until the next season.
Who do you think will be the Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the year. To make it tougher lets say it can't be anyone that was drafted in the first round. :-)
Ashley Fox (1:31 PM)
Oh my. That is tough. I'm going to pass. It'd be easier to say Luck and Claiborne.
With the way we play D-fense in the NFCW, do you think our division will garner more respect than in the past?
Ashley Fox (1:34 PM)
Well, respect is earned through Ws, and good defenses help there. Everybody will be chasing San Francisco, which has had an interesting offseason beefing up its wide receiving corps. I'm looking forward to seeing A.J. Jenkins. He's super fast. And they added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham. We all know how ridiculous the Niners D was last year. Got big respect from me.
Richard (Greensboro, NC)
Is Denver a real threat or this season or will Manning be falling off in performance as the players fall into his rhythm?
Ashley Fox (1:36 PM)
A question from my home state. Thanks, Richard. I believe Denver will be a real threat. Need continued improvement from the defense, of course, but I would expect Manning to be back to being Manning. There will be an adjustment, sure, both for him and his new teammates. But no one prepares harder or watches more film. Manning will be ready. And he will make a big difference for a team that, let's not forget, won a playoff game last year with you know who.
Ashley, go with your gut, who has more yards, touchdowns and wins this year out of the Manning brothers?
Ashley Fox (1:39 PM)
Okay, sticking with Manning. I like this question. Honestly hadn't thought about it and without a lengthy statistical break down, this is unscientific at best (but you did say gut, so here it goes): More yards, Eli. More touchdowns, Peyton. More wins, Eli. The yards will be interesting. Peyton always had a ton, but he's transitioning. Eli finished fourth with nearly 5,000.
Ok, fair enough. It can't be anyone drafted in the top 10...
Ashley Fox (1:42 PM)
Circling back here, only because John made it a little easier. But just a little. I'll say Coples and Floyd. I like Floyd's situation in Arizona playing with Larry Fitzgerald. He should see a lot of action. But the odds are with the players picked in the top 10. Best players, drafted to start and make a huge impact.
What did you think of Ochocinco's letter to Goodell? Hilarious!
Ashley Fox (1:44 PM)
I thought it was silly that he called Goodell "dad." But that's just me. You don't hear a lot of players supporting Goodell these days, so I guess that was nice of Chad. I'm sure the commissioner appreciated it.
Ashley Fox (1:44 PM)
And, as a follow up, if you are interested in Goodell's relationship with the players, my colleague Jeff Chadiha had a fascinating story about the topic recently, early last week perhaps. It's worth a read.
Grant (South Bend, IN)
Ashley, let me get a crack at John's question. I say Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson -- now let it be known that I'm an ND fan and I really don't like Pete Carroll, but those will prove to be two highly underrated picks. If Wilson doesn't get the time at QB that he deserves, I'd say Floyd too. Michael Floyd is the sweetness. How's that for homerism?
Ashley Fox (1:45 PM)
Homerism at its best. Thanks, Grant.
Do you think Tannehill should start week 1 if he out plays Moore and Gerard?
Ashley Fox (1:47 PM)
If he outplays them, then yes. Will be asking a lot, though. Before the draft, most scouts thought he would benefit from a year watching and learning. It's a tricky thing. You want to get him experience but you don't want to have him lose confidence by getting crushed early. It's going to be interesting to see how that one plays out.
Tim Tebow will be the Jets starter by week __. My guess is week 2, or week 3 of the preseason if the Jets do Hard Knocks.
Ashley Fox (1:50 PM)
Sadly for us all, the Jets took themselves out of the Hard Knocks running last Friday. I really wanted to see it. Would have been awesome. But there really was no upside for the Jets. I will say Tebow will be the starter by Week 7 at New England. Or not. Who knows. The Tebow thing is unlike any other. I've never seen anything like it, and I don't know if Mark Sanchez can thrive with it. That's a dicey situation.
Scott (Springfield Illinois)
With the NFC central being very competitive this year who do you hold realm at the top to win the division?
Ashley Fox (1:52 PM)
Love the black and blue. It is Green Bay's division until someone knows them off, which will be challenging. But man, Chicago has been active this off season. They were in the mix last year until all the injuries. Detroit obviously had a breakout season. But they're chasing Green Bay.
Your thoughts as to the toughest and weakest divisions this upcoming year?
Ashley Fox (1:56 PM)
That's a good question. Lots of competition for "toughest" division: AFC North, NFC North and East. The AFC North was the only division with three teams in the playoffs last season. Weakest I would say AFC South. Three work-in-progress teams and the Texans.
What are the chances that the Rams will have a SF-type turnaround? New, experienced coach, under-rated defense, and plenty of good players on offense to build around. Thoughts?
Ashley Fox (1:58 PM)
Well, there could be your sleeper pick for 2012. Fisher has said they aren't rebuilding. Got a good young quarterback learning yet another new system. Have talent on D, just had so many injuries last year. But they only won two games last year. I wouldn't expect them to go blazing into the playoffs.
Ashley, the Patriots are known for recognizing when a player is past his "prime" (for the most part) and have no trouble releasing or separating from said player. How do you think that approach will work when it comes to Tom Brady? Do you think Belicheck et. al will be able to let go of him so easily?
Ashley Fox (2:00 PM)
Great question, Matt. Brady and Belichick are understandably tight. But it is reality that Brady is the longest-tenured Patriots player. He wants to keep playing and had a heck of a season last year. I don't see him playing anywhere else. He doesn't have anything else to prove. But if Peyton Manning can get cut, it can happen to anybody, even Tom Brady.
Ashley Fox (2:01 PM)
I'll wrap it up with that. Thanks for joining me. We'll do it again next Monday. Have a great week.