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)
It's been another interesting week in Dolphin Land. Let's discuss that and anything else in the AFC East.
Hi James, why are the Dolphins struggling so much against the run when they were so solid in that area last year?
James Walker (3:03 PM)
Good question, Keanu. This is probably the biggest surprise of the year from a statistics standpoint. I thought Miami would be top 10 against the run, but the Dolphins are 25th. The gap discipline just isn't there this year and the defense wears down and allows a lot of rushing yards in the third and fourth quarters.
Do you think T. Clabo can hold the fort for the rest of the season considering his early struggles on the line?
James Walker (3:04 PM)
The Dolphins don't have a choice, Justin. Jonathan Martin is not coming back -- definitely not this year. Clabo is a pro and he works hard. He's just long in the tooth. Clabo has been better since being benched earlier in the year.
just a thought: the run game kind of works when they don't use the disastrous stretch plays
James Walker (3:06 PM)
That is accurate, Fred. The Dolphins have a way of not listening to outside suggestion from the media and fans right away. Then, a few weeks later, they try it and it works. Plowing straight ahead as oppose to sideways was something I've written since early October. The Dolphins finally started doing it about three weeks later and it's produced results.
Candy (Slippery Rock)
Hi James, how do you think the Dolphins will try to attack Carolina's impressive defense? Will this be the week they get Mike Wallace loose?
James Walker (3:08 PM)
I think this is a game where the Dolphins will need a couple big plays from Mike Wallace to win. The Panthers arguably have the best defense in the NFL this year. Wallace is the kind of dynamic player who can open things up with some long receptions. If the Dolphins try to grind it out against the Panthers and try to match running games and defense, I don't think Miami wins. The Dolphins need to make some big offensive plays on Sunday.
Adam (New York)
Do you think if the Dolphins stumble and Finish either 500 or Below, with everything going on. Could we see whole sale changes in the off season?
James Walker (3:09 PM)
I predicted the Dolphins would finish 8-8 in the preseason and I stick to my predictions. A .500 record would put Miami right in the playoff hunt down to the final couple of weeks.
All things aside to do think Miami can survive the OL issues and compete in a wildcard hunt with likes of the Jets, Titans, Chargers, Browns, and others for one wildcard spot?
James Walker (3:11 PM)
All these teams are inconsistent and average. So are the Dolphins. The Dolphins should be able to compete with this group. They have head-to-head tiebreakers over the Browns and Chargers. They do not have it against the Ravens and still must play the Steelers and Jets twice.
Alex (Sanibel, FL)
Does 8-8, IF we sweep the Jets, get us in the playoffs? If we split with Jets, I think we need 9. Thoughts?
James Walker (3:12 PM)
Nine wins usually is the minimum, Alex. There are so many teams still in the hunt in the AFC that someone will get hot and push for 9-7. Tiebreakers also could be an issue. Jets aside, if Miami loses to the Steelers and already lost to the Ravens, that could make it tough.
When is the earliest time will Jeff Ireland gets fired?
James Walker (3:16 PM)
NFL investigation aside, I don't see the Dolphins deciding on Jeff Ireland's future until the season is over. Miami could be in the playoff hunt right down to the final week. It wouldn't make sense to fire a GM in the middle of a playoff push. Of course, all bets are off if the NFL finds Ireland culpable in the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito investigation. I don't think anyone in the building is above reproach in this investigation.
Do you think Cameron Wake will ever get back to his high level he had the last couple of year or are his injuries still a big hindrance I just want to know when I can see multi-sack games from him again?
James Walker (3:17 PM)
Cameron Wake has played at a high level the past few weeks. He had a three-sack game against the Bengals. Wake also got a key fourth-quarter sack on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Wake has been fine since recovering from his knee injury. I don't like the rotation the Dolphins are doing to take away snaps from Wake. But Miami has done that most of the year.
Mutt (Oklahoma City)
Has Dustin Keller been around the team at all this year since his injury? Any chance he's brought back for another shot next year?
James Walker (3:19 PM)
I have not seen Dustin Keller at the facility since his surgery, Mutt. That doesn't mean he's not rehabbing with the Dolphins. I'm just not sure where he chose to do so. Keller is a free agent and I don't think the Dolphins have him as a top priority. Charles Clay has proven he can provide good production at a fraction of the cost.
If you had to give a grade for the dolphins 2013 draft today what would you give them (production-wise). Also is the coaching staff not letting dion jordan play because he is a liability on the run defense like cam wake?
James Walker (3:21 PM)
I'm probably going to wait until the end of the year to grade Miami's draft class. And I do not agree with the lack of playing time the Dolphins are providing Dion Jordan. He's making an impact in limited snaps.
James Walker (3:27 PM)
Sorry for the pause. I'm just catching up on Adam Schefter's report that Richie Incognito's grievance hearing has been delayed until after the NFL investigation is complete. That could take weeks.
Have the coaches held this team back from being better? This team has the talent to be better defensively and offensively...
James Walker (3:31 PM)
I don't think the coaching staff has done a good job of maximizing the Dolphins' talent and potential. Certain things like getting Mike Wallace involved, getting Dion Jordan on the field, taking so long to figure out the running game. ... It's been a lot of issues that's held the Dolphins back from winning a couple more games than they have.
Scott (Austin, TX)
Why can't Patterson stay healthy? Is he coming back to soon from each of his injuries or is he just THAT injury prone?
James Walker (3:33 PM)
It's a little bit of both, Scott. Dimitri Patterson is a solid player. You can see it on the field when he plays. Patterson still leads the Dolphins with four interceptions, despite missing half the season. But injuries have been the story of his career, and the groin is tricky. It's easy to re-injure and Patterson keeps having issues.
Why have the Dolphins not outright released Richie Incognito? Asking to postpone the grievance hearing only adds to the confusion. The only scenario that makes sense is they are holding onto the hope he can return to the team if this investigation goes favorably. Thoughts?
James Walker (3:36 PM)
It's a money thing, Chris. If the Dolphins outright release Incognito, they have to pay the remainder of his $4 million salary and Incognito can go sign with another team next week. By suspending Incognito for four games, they can withhold about $1 million of his paychecks under the terms of a "suspension" and Incognito is still on the roster and can't sign elsewhere. I expect the Dolphins to release Incognito anyway after four games when they can no longer withhold his paychecks.
Ruben (Oakland Park) [via mobile]
Is Brent Grimes the Dolphins best offseason acquisition? Also, which linebacker do you believe to have performed better, Dannel Ellerbe or Phillip Wheeler?
James Walker (3:39 PM)
Yes, Brent Grimes has been Miami's best offseason acquisition this year. Grimes is a HUGE priority for the Dolphins to re-sign in 2014. I think Ellerbe has been better. His tackling is more consistent and he's been aggressive.
Colin (Chicago, IL)
Percentage chance the Dolphins make the playoffs in your opinion?
James Walker (3:40 PM)
I'm just taking it game by game, Colin. I picked the Panthers to win this week. We will see how each game goes.
so incognito grievance hearing delayed? so that means what?
James Walker (3:41 PM)
That means Richie Incognito and the Dolphins won't have their hearing until the NFL investigation is done. That could take weeks, depending on the NFL.
If Ireland gets the boot along with philbin, do you think Tannehill will still be kept with the new gm and still named starter? Also if you the number 1 pick and had to choose between a franchise qb or a franchise LT, who would you pick?
James Walker (3:43 PM)
That's a lot of "What if?" Let's wait and see if some or all these things happen first before we speculate. The first step is Jeff Ireland. I think he has the least chance of returning of the three people you mentioned.
tom (san francisco)
Any thoughts on Dallas Thomas and the 2 rookie cb's? Did Ireland whiff hard in this draft? I know you need to wait 3 years, but it does not seem encouraging.
James Walker (3:45 PM)
I don't write off any rookie after one year. I've seen plenty of players struggle in the NFL their first year and turn out just fine. It's a difficult league. But none of these rookies have made an immediate impact. We will know more in another year or two.
First I was upset we never pulled the trigger on Albert, and then we never got into the discussion on Monroe from the jags. Why do you think Ireland choose to neglect the OL.
James Walker (3:46 PM)
Jeff Ireland believed in his draft pick (Jonathan Martin) and free-agent signing (Tyson Clabo). He was wrong on both fronts and it cost the offense.
ed moultrie (miami, fla)
call me crazy, but i think miami will win this game. i feel like that the miami dolphins' defense matches up well against the carolina offense . . . please show me logical points to back up my stance on this
James Walker (3:52 PM)
That's interesting, Ed, because I feel like the Panthers are an awful matchup for Miami. The Panthers are great at running and the Dolphins can't stop the run this year. Carolina's biggest strength is its defense, and Miami's offense has been shaky most weeks. Outside of forcing turnovers and Mike Wallace making some big plays, it's going to be tough for the Dolphins to win.
James Walker (3:53 PM)
On paper, this matchup favors Carolina. But if the Panthers show up and turn over the ball three or four times, that's how the Dolphins can win.
Alex (Chicago, IL)
Hey James, First off, thanks for your great coverage this year. Quick OL question, since that seems to be the end all be all with Dolphins season so far. Any chance that since Garner played well at center that the Fins entertain the idea of moving Pouncey to one of the guard positions (since I know he played that in college). I know long term it doesn't make sense, but short term and the problems we have, is that an option? Thanks.
James Walker (3:56 PM)
Thanks for the kind words, Alex, but it not a good idea to move Mike Pouncey. You keep him there at his best position. Perhaps Nate Garner can prove that he can be a starting guard. Garner is versatile and can play all five spots off the bench.
Tyler Spillane Richmond Virginia [via mobile]
How come with a big, athletic quarterback in Tannehill, the dolphins do not utilize the read option? Wouldn't that strengthen the run game as a whole?
James Walker (3:58 PM)
The Dolphins have a read-option package, but they usually don't use it beyond one or two plays a game. The issue is Ryan Tannehill gets hit enough as one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league. It's not worth exposing him to more hits running the read option.
Tannehill and Wallace have yet to develop good chemistry and timing on the deep ball. Is this something they can fix with time or is Tannehill's arm just not as good as we thought it was?
James Walker (4:01 PM)
It remains to be seen, George. I can't say for sure because I haven't seen a consistent deep ball from Ryan Tannehill. This is the first year he's had the right personnel, and Tannehill hasn't made the throws.
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Everyone, thanks for the great questions. Continue to check out ESPN.com's Dolphins page and follow me on Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.