Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com NFL blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the League.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join Walker Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:00 PM)
Welcome to another NFL chat. Let's get right into it.
Jeremy (Florence, KY)
I am reading that Jordan will get quite a bit of playing time on 3rd downs against the Browns. Do you think he will be subbing for Vernon? Or will they have a package to have Jordan, Vernon and Wake on the field for 3rd downs? Those 3 on the field at the same time would create a lot of havoc I think.
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Dion Jordan is Olivier Vernon's backup. So naturally Jordan will get the reps that Jordan doesn't. But the best skill Jordan brings to the table is his athleticism. So look for Miami to find different ways to do that on Sunday.
Ed (Queens Village)
The last two years ESPN power rankings had 12 Colts and 11 Bengals rank 32nd prior to start of season and both made playoffs. Can Jets follow the trend too going from 32nd to playoffs?
James Walker (4:03 PM)
I don't see it Ed. The Jets are not very good and they have a coaching situation brewing with Rex Ryan. The QB situation also is a mess. I don't know if the Jets are the worst team in the NFL. But I don't see NY overcoming all these things to make the playoffs.
Rich (New Jersey)
Hi Jim, Patriots still look like the class of the division, the Jets took a couple of steps backwards, Bills & Dolphins couple of years away. Do you see the Bills, Dolphins or Jets finishing above 7-9 this year?
James Walker (4:05 PM)
I predicted the Dolphins to finish 8-8 this year and the Patriots winning the AFC East. So that's two teams better than 7-9. I haven't predicted wins for the Bills or Jets. But I don't see them being contenders this year.
I'm obliviously excited about the opener this weekend and finally seeing how all the Dolphins new pieces work together. While I?m hoping for a Miami win, I will not be surprised if they end up losing to the Browns. If that is the case the Dolphins could be in a HUGE hole by the time they get to their bye week due to their tough next 4 games. Do you think that the 1st game of the year can be a ?must win? game in order to keep Miami?s playoff hope realistic?
James Walker (4:08 PM)
Richard, thanks for checking in and don't forget to check out our new Dolphins coverage on ESPN.com. There's no such thing as a must-win game in Week 1. But this is as close to that as you can get. If you look at Miami's schedule, this is the most winnable game of its first five. If the Dolphins can't beat the Browns, chances don't look good for them to win against the Colts, Falcons, Saints and Ravens. Miami needs this game big time.
Why is everyone overlooking the dolphins? We have an upcoming offense with a huge potential, a top 5 defense and excellent kicking game
James Walker (4:09 PM)
Who is "everyone"? I think the Dolphins have been getting a lot of good publicity since spending more than $200 million in free agency. It's a better team on paper, but the Dolphins must earn their respect on the field. They have a very important opener against Cleveland that they need to win.
Hi James, looking at the Fins offense, I don't see them using the FB all that often. How do you see them using this new FB in their system?
James Walker (4:11 PM)
Three-wide receivers is their strongest formation, in my opinion. That masks their depth issues at TE and/or keeps the fullback off the field. But Tyler Clutts will get playing time this week. Miami can't be too predictable and limit formations.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
James - how big a season does Ryan Tannehill need to have on order for the Dolphins to be in the playoff conversation?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
In the conversation? Ryan Tannehill can play nearly the same way he played last year and be in the "conversation." But Tannehill needs to be better than last year. He will have to win some games, instead of not losing them. That will be the difference between 7-8 wins and possibly 9-10 wins.
James Walker (4:15 PM)
Think about it, Dolphins fans. How many games did Ryan Tannehill take over and win last year, mostly by himself? He played well enough not to lose. But most of Miami's seven wins last year was due to him not making major mistakes.
Hey James. Enjoy your work. Can you give me some insight into our new FB? Haven't seen much and don't know if we got a quality FB to really support our run game. Appreciate the feedback.
James Walker (4:18 PM)
Thanks for the question, Bryan, and make sure to continue reading our new Dolphins page on ESPN.com. I've watched media portions of two practices this week, and I can see what Miami liked in Tyler Clutts. He has good size and can move. He's not as athletic as Evan Rodriguez, but Clutts is a good athlete and he can block. We will know more in the games, but this is a small snapshot from practice.
Justin (Hot Springs)
What do you think is going to be the biggest storyline for the dolphins this season?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
The biggest storyline is whether Ryan Tannehill can take the next step in Year 2. The Dolphins cannot make the playoffs this year unless Tannehill improves. If he regresses or stays the same, the Dolphins will follow.
Rex has done a great job over the years with a limited roster (talent wise). with improved qb play and a faster defense, this team could improve on its 6 wins last year.
James Walker (4:20 PM)
I don't know, Corey. This roster isn't better than last year's team that went 6-10. Unless Rex Ryan does a stellar coaching job, how will he get the Jets to seven or more wins this year?
Mick (San Francisco) [via mobile]
Do you think Ireland was misguided in cutting Carpenter and Marshall just to save a few dollars? Marshall especially since he's way better than Wilson and Carroll and healthier than Davis and Taylor.
James Walker (4:23 PM)
I understand letting go of Dan Carpenter. He struggled last year and made a lot of money for a kicker ($2.68 million). Jeff Ireland found a kicker in the draft and Caleb Sturgis has been solid. Letting go of Richard Marshall was questionable. It appears to me to be strictly financial because Marshall has a high salary. Nolan Carroll is not better than Marshall. Will Davis and Jamar Taylor may have higher ceilings, but they are rookies who may not play in Week 1.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Hi James - do you see NE semi-struggling in the early part of the season as they have in the past couple of years?
James Walker (4:32 PM)
The Patriots have an easy schedule right away with the Bills and Jets in the first five days. I would be shocked if New England doesn't start 2-0 and pick up two important division wins. The Bills and Jets just have too many injuries and/or questions.
Hey James, I'm glad ill always have somewhere and get a quick Dolphins fix when I need one. Besides Ryan Tannehill having to step up this year, I feel the defensive upgrades will allow the defense to do even a little more by forcing turnovers to help us win another 2 maybe 3 games allowing #17 to take that step, or is that wishful thinking?
James Walker (4:34 PM)
Thanks for reading, Jon. The defense will be the strength of the Dolphins, at least early in the season. This is a faster and more aggressive group. I expect more turnovers based on how much that has been the focus. That's not wishful thinking on defense.
James Walker (4:35 PM)
Perhaps my only concern on defense is overall depth and its ability to sustain through injury. What happens if CB Brent Grimes gets injured? Or LB Dannell Ellerbe or S Reshad Jones? I don't have a lot of confidence in the backups outside of the D-line.
Quarterman (Ocala Fl)
Much as I question Jeff Ireland I believe if this team struggles this year it's because of the Offense the Defense is an should come in rock Solid. Could this all fall on the offensive coaching staff not sold on Mike Sherman an his play calling
James Walker (4:37 PM)
The pressure is on GM Jeff Ireland this year. He's the one person who has been through various regimes, quarterbacks, coaches, etc. Joe Philbin and the coaching staff did a good job in his first year. He will get at least three or more years to prove his worth.
Mike (Anchorage, AK)
James, glad to have you as Miami's "writer of choice" for ESPN. I'm not ready to concede your predicition of an 8-8 record, BUT if that happens, after all the $$ spent this off-season, can Ireland survive an 8-8 season?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
Thanks, Mike. It's really up to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. Jeff Ireland seems to have his ear and his respect. So I can see a scenario where he survives an 8-8 year if the Dolphins play well, competitive and just miss the playoffs. But if things flop and fall apart, Ireland would be in trouble.
Hello James, how do you think Miami's O Line will do against Cleveland's defensive front?
James Walker (4:44 PM)
A good matchup, Keanu. This is a strength for Cleveland and not a huge strength for Miami. If the Browns win this game, I think it will be because they control the line of scrimmage defensively and got to QB Ryan Tannehill. Miami's offensive line is ok in the starting lineup but still has a lot to prove.
Candy (Slippery Rock)
Hey James, do you think the Dolphins will be improved in the red zone this year? They don't seem to have a go to option in the passing game there and the RBs look unproven at the goal line.
James Walker (4:46 PM)
Good observation, Candy. It's hard to tell in the preseason. I don't know if that's enough of a sample size for the starters. But Miami has worked on red-zone offense relentlessly in practice. What concerns me most is the fact that the Dolphins get close to the end zone and feels the need to use three WR or go shotgun. I think Miami needs to mix it up more and show toughness in the red zone by successfully running the ball.
Who do you see winning the nfc south this year?and second who wins the nfc east this year?
James Walker (4:47 PM)
I like the Falcons this year, Victor. Atlanta actually has a good chance to get to the Super Bowl this year if the team stays healthy.
Mark (San Diego)
James, when I watch Dion Sims play he reminds me a lot of Antonio Gates. Big build, long arms, good hands, and not the fastest but knows how to get open. Do you think he has the tools to become a top TE in the NFL?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
Whoa! Whoa! Slow down, Mark. Don't mention a former Pro Bowler in the same sentence as Miami's rookie TE. Let Dion Sims earn it. He is big, but Sims needs to work on his ball skills. Sims runs better than I thought for a guy his size. But he's still a bit raw. Sims needs some time.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
When will we see EJ Manuel as the Quarterback for the Buffalo Bills?
James Walker (4:50 PM)
It's still to be determined, Chris. Manuel is practicing, so that's a good sign. But Bills head coach Doug Marrone will evaluate his health and performance later this week.
James Walker (4:52 PM)
Brandon Gibson is solid. He has good size and strong hands, although he sometimes drops a few. He's learning the slot but has made solid improvement since OTAs. Gibson is a better option to throw to than any of Miami's TEs and FB.
What is your prediction for this weekend's game?
James Walker (4:54 PM)
I haven't decided if I'm doing game-by-game predictions this year. I nailed it for the AFC East division last year and readers were complaining. They said it was too easy, or all I did was pick the Patriots. So I'm leaning towards staying out of the prediction biz week to week. I have a few more days to decide.
Miami has both the Buc's and Saints in both the preseason and regular season this year. I know they are preseason games and little to none gameplan goes into them, but do you think they gameplanned for them or tried to see what works and doesn't work against these guys since they are seeing them later on?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
The Dolphins picked up some info. But neither team showed much. That's especially the case in the case of New Orleans. That was the final preseason game. The starters barely played. The playcalling was simplistic.
Harry (Babylon, NY)
Can you see NE winning all 6 games against Buf, Mia & NY - that would put them in great position to be the #1 AFC seed?
James Walker (4:58 PM)
It's not out of the realm of possibility for the Patriots to win five or six games. But healthy will be key. What happens if Tom Brady goes down? Then these kinds of predictions and expectations go out the window.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone thanks again for your time and great questions. Remember to check out ESPN.com's Dolphins page for all the latest news from Miami. You can also follow me on Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.