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)
Welcome to our latest Miami Dolphins chat. There are plenty of issues with the team. Let's begin.
Adam (New York)
Will the acquisition of McKinnie help the team long term this season?
James Walker (3:02 PM)
Adam, Bryant McKinnie is only a short-term move. McKinnie will be a free agent after this season and he's 34-years old. I think this is a desperation move by the Dolphins, because McKinnie's character doesn't fit any of the core principles Miami head coach Joe Philbin talked about for the past two years. But when a team loses three straight and the QB is getting beat up and battered, that usually forces teams to go away from those principles.
Big Sam (my dorm room)
First off I love the blog! Now do you think Miami still have a chance at the playoffs? I still think we can go 10-6 if we get our O-Line to block! what do you think?
James Walker (3:04 PM)
Thanks, Big Sam. Tell all your friends at school to keep studying and check out my work as well. I stopped mentioning the word playoffs with the Dolphins two weeks ago. I think all the talk has been a bit much since the preseason. I don't see Miami finishing 10-6 this year. The Dolphins have too many holes. But let's see how it plays out.
Steve Ambrose (Asheville, NC)
Chicago or ST. Louis should trade a 2nd to Miami for Moore. Save some games and give them huge safety-net leverage in next year's draft and against their own QBs.
James Walker (3:07 PM)
Hotsauce Steve, thanks for being a long-team reader and I'm glad to hear things have gotten better for you after a rough year. Trading Matt Moore has been a small topic here in South Florida, but the team hasn't even considered it. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 26 times already and has a right (throwing) shoulder injury. I doubt Miami would trade its insurance until it was comfortable with its offensive line. Right now that's not the case.
Wiliam [via mobile]
Do you think the dolphins have a chance to win the next two games?
James Walker (3:10 PM)
It's "Any Given Sunday" in the NFL, William. Of course, the Dolphins have a chance. But they are facing a pair of first-place teams and both will be tough games. I picked Miami to lose, 28-20, Sunday against New England. The Dolphins haven't won in Foxborough since the Wildcat game in 2008. I think their struggles continue. The Cincy game is more winnable. It's at home with a short week, and the Bengals haven't looked the same on the road. I will make that pick when the time comes.
Jose (La HAbra, CA)
We need to see more emotion from our Quarteback.
James Walker (3:12 PM)
That's an interesting point, Jose. Ryan Tannehill is not the kind of "rah, rah" quarterback we see on other teams. But neither is Joe Flacco and he won a Super Bowl and a bunch of playoff games. Peyton Manning I wouldn't describe as an "In your face" kind of quarterback. I think Tannehill just has to play better and continue being himself. Turnovers are a bigger problem.
Is there any sense among the coaches that Miller needs more reps to get going? He's obviously Chris Johnson-type, boom-or-bust runner and needs reps for good things to happen.
James Walker (3:15 PM)
This has been a problem I've had with Miami's coaching staff since Week 1. They don't have a lot of faith in Lamar Miller to provide 15-20 carries in a game. Miller gets single-digit carries too often to be a starting running back. That means Miami views Miller and Daniel Thomas pretty much equal, which is disagree with. If you give Miller 20 carries, he will bust open two or three for long gains and that boosts the offense. But the team is content providing seven or eight carries a game. I don't understand it.
Great news that the Dolphins are coming here next year. My question for this year though is: why are the Dolphins so up and down? Seems like they might beat anyone one week and lose to anyone the next!
James Walker (3:17 PM)
Darryl, thanks for checking in from London. I assume the Dolphins-Raiders game at Wembley Stadium will be of interest to you. Miami lacks an identity on both sides of the ball. That has led to inconsistency. The Dolphins don't specialize in any particular one thing. So they go back and forth on game plans. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Raymond Powers (Gainesville, FL)
It seems Sturgis may be getting a little bit unsure of himself, lossing confidence after these last two BIG misses? Granted, they were were no chipshots, but do you think it could become a problem?
James Walker (3:19 PM)
The interesting thing about Caleb Sturgis is he gets no easy kicks. I feel like most attempts the past two or three games have been from 48 yards or more. His two misses were from 51 and 57. Those are not automatic. He made his first 10 attempts, so I wouldn't assume he's struggling just yet. The Dolphins have to put him in better positions to succeed.
Red Barron (SF/LA)
As a life long Dolphins fan its really rough to see the team go 3-0 then 0-3 what do you think is a reasonable record for the Dolphins at the end of the year? Also whats are playoff chances?
James Walker (3:21 PM)
I picked the Dolphins to finish 8-8 before the start of the season and they are right on pace. I started to doubt my position after their 3-0 start. But many of the issues I saw in training camp and the preseason (O-line, running game, lack of depth) are showing up now. The Dolphins have talent. But I don't think it's enough to win 10 games. Too much has to go right over 16 games for that to happen.
James Walker (3:23 PM)
By the way, these next two games will be key to Miami's season. If the Dolphins can't beat the Patriots and Bengals in a five-day stretch, they will be 3-5 and losers of five straight. Miami could go in the tank after that point.
Gildo (Kennett square PA)
Hey james if the dolphins finish record of 7-9 or worse than that if that happens do you see jeff ireland and joe philbin being fired and do you see the Dolphins going after like a jon gruden.
James Walker (3:26 PM)
Whoa! Whoa! Let's not talk about the next coach already, Gildo. It's way too early for that. Coaches usually get three years and Joe Philbin is not even halfway there. Miami general manager Jeff Ireland is certainly a fair question. He quietly got a contract extension in the offseason, but that doesn't guarantee he's safe if the team goes in the tank. Miami won seven games last year and spent more than $200 million in free agency. If the Dolphins don't improve on that record, Ireland is not fully safe.
Brad (Beverly, Ma)
Please tell me Clabo never plays another down for the phins. He is just awful.
James Walker (3:28 PM)
I expect Tyson Clabo to start Sunday, Brad. Bryant McKinnie just arrived and needs to learn a new offense. It may take a game or two to get him acclimated.
JR (Tampa Bay)
James, with these 3 losses in a row how much are Ireland and Sherman in the hot seat right now?
James Walker (3:30 PM)
I mentioned earlier, JR, Ireland seat certainly warms up. But the coaching staff is safe for now. Coaches usually get three years. Mike Sherman is a mentor of Joe Philbin's and a good friend. I think it would be really hard to Philbin to fire his OC in the middle of the season. I don't expect that to happen unless it was forced.
James,Great work that you do on this blog. What do you feel is the number one issue with the team. Is it the coaching, the OL play, the inconsistency at the RB position, or something else?
James Walker (3:32 PM)
Right now it's the offensive line. It impacts both the running and passing game. It also impacts quarterback play because Ryan Tannehill is getting beat up and now turning over the football at an alarming rate. If Miami fixed its offensive line, some of the other issues would fall in place.
Why are they not bootlegging or rolling out Tannehill more? I saw it used a bit more last week but not much at all
James Walker (3:33 PM)
I thought Miami did enough designed rollouts for Ryan Tannehill last week. There were about four plays that I can remember, maybe more, and it usually worked. You can't call rollouts on every throw or an offense gets predictable. Several a game to move the pocket are enough.
James Walker (3:34 PM)
In previous games, Miami didn't call any designed rollouts. The Dolphins made progress in that area after the bye.
Hey James, I am wondering if you have heard anything about any other trades? maybe MJD to Miami?
James Walker (3:36 PM)
This isn't fantasy football. There are not a lot of in-season trades because it has to be a match for both teams. Jeff Ireland doesn't like to trade away draft picks. He usually acquires them, like he did for Brandon Marshall and Vontae Davis. So that tells you how much Miami needed a boost on the offensive line. I don't know what the asking price would be for a player like Maurice Jones-Drew. But I don't see Jeff Ireland trading away a high draft pick.
I know Jonathan Martin probably isn't happy about his move to right tackle but, let's be honest if he was playing at an elite level they weren't going to move him
James Walker (3:39 PM)
Jonathan Martin isn't happy but he has been professional. I understand because he didn't do enough to lose his job. He lost his spot because Tyson Clabo lost his job. Martin has been ok -- not great and not bad. But to make the new offensive line work, Bryant McKinnie must be on the left side.
James Walker (3:40 PM)
But Sunday may be the last time we see the old offensive line with Jonathan Martin on the left side and Tyson Clabo on the right side. Making a switch on short notice could be a risk.
Julio (Greece ) [via mobile]
Do you think miami makes the playoffs if McKinney pans out
James Walker (3:41 PM)
I'm trying to stay away from the "P" word when talking about the Dolphins. They haven't played well enough the past three weeks to warrant that kind of discussion. Let's see how they play in the next two games.
Ralphie (Santa Barbara Cali)
Hey James why does it seem like the Phins are so reluctant to use Dion Jordan more, everytime he gets in the game it seems like he's making things happen?
James Walker (3:44 PM)
Along with their lack of use for Lamar Miller, Dion Jordan is another player I have a problem with the coaching staff about. How much longer will the kids gloves stay on? Jordan makes plays in the limited time he's on the field. He doesn't have to take anyone's starting job. But the No. 3 overall pick can play more snaps and not just on obvious passing downs. That's another thing I don't understand.
How can we possibly evaluate Tannehill based off this season? With the o-line's play and lack of consistent running game I feel like it will be hard to tell what kind of quarterback he can be. Fair?
James Walker (3:47 PM)
Yes, Ryan Tannehill will be evaluated no matter what. Is it a 100-percent fair evaluation? Maybe not. But life isn't 100-percent fair. I think Tannehill has a lot of talent and a lot of potential. No running game and little pass blocking makes it tough on him this year. But Tannehill is showing his toughness, which is something I didn't know he had until this year.
Do you think the phins are more likely to try sign after the seasons over solai or starks? or both?
James Walker (3:48 PM)
They're not signing both, James. Keep in mind, Jared Odrick also is coming up soon after and just switched agents. Miami will try to keep him for the future, as well. I think Paul Soliai is more likely because he's a better fit. Randy Starks is a solid player and he's doing a good job. But I expect him to get his money elsewhere in 2014.
Is Charles Clay underutilized? Fins seemed to have a good weapon here, but don't see him targeted all that much.
James Walker (3:49 PM)
Charles Clay wasn't a big target in the last game. But he's gotten more than his share of passes in the previous month or so. I wouldn't say he's underutilized.
The Card (Toronto, ON)
Dolphins fan since '88... patiently waiting for this team to be relevant again. How BAD was it to lose: at home; after a bye week; to the Bills 4th string QB; when you had a lead in the 4th quarter??? Why did they not try to run the clock out more? Even with calling a pass, why call something that allows time for the defense to even get close to Tannehill? Why Why Why????
James Walker (3:53 PM)
It's a brutal loss, probably the Dolphins' worse loss of the season. More than anything, it's the kind of loss that takes away hope from a fan base. How can fans feel this is a playoff team when they couldn't beat Buffalo with a fourth-string quarterback at home? That's the general sense I get here in South Florida this week. I'm curious to see Miami's effort level against the Patriots.
What's up w/ Dion Sims and Will Davis, these guys seem raw but they also have great big play potential, I don't understand some of the coaching decisions lately?
James Walker (3:55 PM)
Sims is playing more, Rob. The reason you probably don't notice him is because he's usually blocking on running plays. Will Davis is trying to make his way back with the coaching staff. He was a favorite in training camp. He made a lot of plays. But a toe injury set him back several weeks and the coaching staff moved on without him.
Chris (San Diego, CA)
Up til about a week or 2 ago Tannehill looked great. Even though he is slumping a little I think he has a better completion rating than A. Luck this year. He has a better rating than Brady this year but gets no national recognition. Why is that?
James Walker (3:57 PM)
Ryan Tannehill did get recognition during his 3-0 start. Not sure much now during this losing streak. For quarterbacks, it's about winning more than it is about stats.
Kevin (Jamestown, NY)
What do you think of the idea of Miami taking a page out of the Patriot's book and have their best corner, Grimes, on Gronkowski all game on Sunday? It worked for NE against Jimmy Graham.
James Walker (3:58 PM)
I like Brent Grimes. He's probably a top-five player on this team. However, Gronkowski has a huge size advantage and I don't think that's a good idea.
James Walker (3:59 PM)
A better suggestion, in my opinion, is to put Dion Jordan or Gronkowski at times to shadow him down the field. That would be a solid curveball that could work.
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time and questions. Remember to read ESPN.com's Dolphins page for all the latest news on Miami. You can also follow and message me on Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.