Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, ESPN NFL Nation Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker drops by to chat and answer all of your Dolphins questions.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch. A Temple graduate and Hyattsville, Md., native who lives in Miami, Walker covered the AFC East for ESPN.com before moving to the Dolphins beat.
Send your questions now and join Walker Thursday at 3 p.m. ET!
James Walker (3:00 PM)
We are well into the NFL season and have plenty of things to discuss with the Miami Dolphins and the AFC East. I'm sure you have plenty of questions. So let's begin.
Derrick (Garden City)
James, how is the health of the defense particularly Wake and Dmitri Patterson?
James Walker (3:02 PM)
Thanks for the question, Derrick. Miami's defense is as healthy as I've seen since Week 1. Cameron Wake looks like he's close to 100 percent and he will be full-go on Sunday. Dimitri Patterson has been out a long time, but he's practice everyday. That's encouraging. If Patterson plays, I think it will be in a limited role as a nickel CB. I'm not sure he's ready at this point to play 55 plays or more as the starting CB.
James Walker (3:04 PM)
LB Dannell Ellerbe is the one to be concerned about. I talked to him yesterday in the locker room and he told me that he expects to play. But he hasn't practiced all week.
James when will Lamar Miller become the feature back and get 15 or 20 carries a game? He looks solid everytime he touches the ball.
James Walker (3:07 PM)
Good question, Lamar, although I disagree that he looks solid every time he runs the football. Miller is the better runner. The problem is Miller doesn't have good hands and he's a below-average blocker. Thomas is better in those areas and that's why he's getting playing time. It's up to the coaches to use their strengths better.
Hi James, what is one difference from the Dolphins before the bye you think we will see when the Dolphins play this Sunday?
James Walker (3:09 PM)
First, the team is healthy again. Injuries were starting to catch up with the Dolphins have four or five games. So seeing the team almost at full strength again will be a change. Second, I expect to see several new wrinkles. Miami did a lot of self-scouting over the past week to figure out what worked and what didn't.
Candy (Slippery Rock)
Hi James, is there anything the Dolphins can do to make the OLine better or will we just have to suffer through this year?
James Walker (3:11 PM)
Schematically, there's several things Miami can do. The Dolphins can max protect more often and keep TE Charles Clay and the running backs in, and they can also use rollouts with Ryan Tannehill to move the pocket left or right. I would also recommend more screens to RBs and WRs, but I don't think OC Mike Sherman is a big screen guy. Those are just three ways to change things up.
James Walker (3:13 PM)
As far as personnel, the Dolphins are pretty much stuck with what they have. I can't think of any big names on the trade market to come in and save Miami. You saw what happened in Pittsburgh and Baltimore when they traded for OTs. It didn't work. Miami's o-line just needs to play better. Being average would be an improvement.
JR (Tampa Bay)
James, why do you think that Miami abandons the run way too early in games? Sometimes it's like they aren't even trying and when they do, it's stretch plays that backfire.
James Walker (3:15 PM)
When you're getting two yards or less on first down, it's easy to lose confidence in the running game. How many times have we seen the Dolphins in second-and-long or third-and-long? The Dolphins are failing at their core running plays, and that's been a huge issue. I asked OC Mike Sherman twice in the past two weeks about what's going wrong with the stretch plays, and they think they have it figured out. We will see.
James Walker (3:16 PM)
The Bills, by the way, are 28th on defense in stopping the run. This is a good week for the Dolphins to establish their ground game. Check out my latest blog on the topic on ESPN.com's Dolphins team page.
James Walker (3:18 PM)
Here is the link: http://espn.go.com/blog/afceast/post/_/id/66124/can-dolphins-finally-run-the-football
robert (myrtle beach)
What's up with all of the Miami bashing this week from fans. Despite the tough opening schedule, Miami is 3-2. Most fans would of signed up for that at the beginning of the season. Do you think fans are over-reacting to the 2 losses?
James Walker (3:21 PM)
I write information about the team and let fans figure it out for themselves, Robert. I don't gauge what's over-reacting or under-reacting. I do know in the preseason, most Dolphins fans would have been very happy with 3-2. But after starting 3-0, the bar was raised and now the Dolphins feel like a sinking ship. It's all a matter of perspective. If Miami wins this game, which I picked them to do, the team will be 4-2 heading into the New England game. That's a pretty good spot to be in.
James Walker (3:22 PM)
But if the Dolphins lose Sunday's game, forget about it. Fans will be justified if they can't beat the Bills (2-4) at home with a backup quarterback. The Dolphins cannot be taken seriously as a contender if they don't win this game.
James, if you were going to make a draft pick to help this team right now, what position would it be?
James Walker (3:23 PM)
Offensive tackle, either left or right depending on how high in the draft the Dolphins are. A case can be made that Miami should have looked there last April.
GW (Milford, MA)
Regardless of the health of Patterson, do you think the Phins will work the rookie DBs more into their plans?
James Walker (3:26 PM)
Yes, eventually. I think the Dolphins had to work in Jamar Taylor a little sooner than expected. Taylor missed all the spring and most of camp due to various health issues. Suddenly, he's asked in the first few weeks of the season to play a key role with Patterson out. Patterson's potential return buys the Dolphins time to coach up Taylor and Will Davis. Both guys will get their shot at some point.
I know some Dolphins fans are concerned about this weeks game, but i just don't see how Tannehill and the Defense don't pick apart a hobbled Bills team. Do you really only see a victory by 1 Touchdown? Im thinking 31-21 Miami.
the teams future looks bright. Any indication on whether Ireland plans to resign Starks or Soliai, or both? Also, does Odrick switching agents bode well for his future in Miami? It would not seem so...
James Walker (3:29 PM)
Mitch, a seven-point win and a 10-point win is not that large. Buffalo does several things well that could present some problems for Miami. First and foremost, the Bills can rush the passer.
James Walker (3:30 PM)
Johnny, no indication on where the Dolphins are headed in 2014 at defensive tackle. But they can't keep all three beyond this year. Starks and Soliai are free agents, and both are having solid years. I would keep Soliai because I think he's a better fit for Miami's scheme. Odrick switching agents means he's looking to cash in. He's having a good year as well. The Dolphins will have a lot of decisions to make this offseason.
Brobard Hillfeather (Sog Valley, PA)
Who would make a good HC for the Jets?
James Walker (3:32 PM)
Rex Ryan has the team at .500. That's better than most expected.
Cameron (West Palm Beach)
One of the biggest issues beyond the offensive line is our defense's propensity to give up big plays on third and long. Any insight as to why they might be struggling in this regard? Thanks
James Walker (3:35 PM)
Two reasons from what I've seen: First, Miami doesn't have a great cover secondary. Outside of Brent Grimes, the Dolphins don't have another CB or S who can really shut down WRs or TEs one-on-one. I thought Reshad Jones would play better in coverage this year, but he's struggled in that department. Second, the pass-rush has taken a step back after the first three games. Cameron Wake's absence has made everyone else easier to block. Quarterbacks have more time to throw the football.
Who is the Dolphins most important player on offense?
James Walker (3:38 PM)
Without a doubt Ryan Tannehill. I know Matt Moore is a solid backup. But Tannehill has kept Miami's offense afloat with virtually no running game and some of the league's worst pass protection. I'm not sure Moore could sustain through that.
Oliver Candido (Topeka, Ks)
With a roster spot open do you think they address the RT position if Tyson Clabo doesn't show he's up to the challenge in Sunday's game?
James Walker (3:39 PM)
I expect an offensive lineman, either a guard or tackle. But it's been 48 hours now and the Dolphins still haven't made a move. Something could be brewing or perhaps an idea Miami had fell through.
Marc (Boca Raton)
Did you agree with Tanehill's/Dolphins decision to spike the ball in the ravens game with just under a minute left. Seemed like poor clock management and waste of a down and ending up costing the game in my opinion.
James Walker (3:41 PM)
That's so two weeks ago. I didn't have as much of a problem with the spike as I did with taking a sack and getting out of field-goal range. Both happened and Miami lost. It's time to move on to the next game.
Phil (Naples, Fla)
Can we expect to see a little more read option worked into the game plan as the season goes?
James Walker (3:43 PM)
The read-option is in the playbook. But it won't be a huge part of Miami's offense this year. Ryan Tannehill takes enough hits as it is sitting in the pocket behind his shaky offensive line. I don't think it's a good idea to expose Tannehill to even more hits.
Cameron (West Palm Beach)
In your opinion, who is the weakest link on the O-line? I find it to be a very difficult position to judge while watching the games. The only thing that stands out to me is J. Martin's lack of strength against the bull rush. Seems like he's getting pushed into the QB every other down. Thoughts?
James Walker (3:46 PM)
It's hard to pinpoint one guy. The Dolphins' o-line is struggling in various areas. John Jerry, Tyson Clabo and Jonathan Martin all deserve their share of the blame.
Jeff (Shutdown Central)
Can we expect to see more Daniel Thomas given the struggles of Lamar Miller and the running game?
James Walker (3:48 PM)
I don't think that's a good idea. Thomas is averaging less than three yards per carry. I don't see more opportunities as the answer.
John Hicks (Missouri)
why would be trading for a running back, when our offensive line is so bad, and we are going to get Tannehill hurt
James Walker (3:51 PM)
I would agree that the offensive line is the biggest issue facing the Dolphins. It impacts both the passing and running game. The RBs haven't played well, but they also don't get a lot of quality opportunities. Too often, they are met right at the line of scrimmage.
Josie (Liberty City)
Is Wake going to have his snaps limited this week?
James Walker (3:53 PM)
Wake, from what I've seen, looks much closer to 100 percent than he did two weeks ago. I think the bye week help him more than most. I expect him to play close to the usual snaps as he did early in the season.
First off love being able to rely on your blog for solid dolphins coverage while I am here in Western New York. But in your opinion with these so called dolphins "trade rumours" do you see the fins pulling their trigger on a deal? I don't see it.
James Walker (3:55 PM)
Thanks, Dylan. I wouldn't rule anything out considering how aggressive GM Jeff Ireland has been this year. Owner Stephen Ross wants to win now, and the pressure is on Ireland to turn the team around sooner than later. Teams don't make huge trades this time of year, but it's possible something happens on a smaller scale. One roster spot has been open for the past 48 hours.
Oliver (Topeka, KS)
I bought a Dion Jordan Jersey and I'm starting to get mad that he's not getting a lot of playing time. Do you see him getting more Reps now?
James Walker (3:57 PM)
Don't worry, Oliver. Jordan is in Miami for the long haul. The Dolphins have used the kid's gloves with Jordan by only playing him in pass-rushing situations. But eventually that will change. Jordan is making plays and has earned more reps. Look for his playing time to increase in the next few weeks.
Bo (LA, CA)
Any chance the Pats are keeping Gronk shelved for the Phins game week 8 to unleash him? Seeing how they are winning without him now and how that game could be very pivotal for the AFC East crown?
James Walker (3:59 PM)
Rob Gronkowski has been week-to-week for a while, and that probably won't change for the Dolphins. It's Thursday and Gronkowski still isn't cleared for the Jets game. If he sits, you have to worry about his status for Miami. The Patriots will be favored at home either way. But certainly Gronkowski's availability would make things tougher for Miami.
Dan (NY )
Are they going to pass it to Wallace more than they did in the past?
James Walker (4:00 PM)
The Dolphins have been throwing to Mike Wallace more in recent games. But the Dolphins need to do a better job of using his strengths. That issue would most likely addressed during the bye.
James Walker (4:01 PM)
Everyone, thanks for all your great questions. Remember to check out ESPN.com's Dolphins page for all the latest news and analysis from Miami. You can also follow me on Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.