Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

January 8, 9:00 AM ET
Chat with James Walker

James Walker
  (9:00 AM)

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to an early edition of our AFC East chat. The Patriots are in the playoffs and the other three division teams are looking for ways to improve. So let's talk about it.

Nick (Raleigh)

So Buffalo brings in Marrone, he needs great coordinators. What are your thoughts on who they should bring in?

James Walker
  (9:02 AM)

Nick, I like the early candidates they are going after with Mike Pettine and Mel Tucker at defensive coordinator. I think both are good coaches, although I'm curious if Pettine would switch Buffalo back to a 3-4, which may not fit guys like Mario Williams. Offensively, that's Marrone's side of the ball. So it's not as important to hire a big name. It will be Marrone's concepts anyway.

ken (montreal)

notre dame's linebackers looked kind of slow for the nfl last night...

James Walker
  (9:04 AM)

I kept a close eye on Manti Te'o because I know the Bills are a target for him at No. 8. I've seen maybe five Notre Dame games this year, and that's probably the worst he's looked. Was it a bad game or the fact that he couldn't handle elite competition? That's for NFL scouts to figure out.

Deven (Buffalo, NY)

So, the Bills finally found their man for the head coaching job. Was it a good move or bad move?

James Walker
  (9:06 AM)

I see we have a lot of Bills questions today. It's too early to say about Doug Marrone. Was he my first choice? No. However, that doesn't mean the Bills got it wrong. This is a big challenge for Marrone. Veteran NFL coaches have not been able to turn the Bills around. So let's see what happens in the next two or three years. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with him.

Jim (Bayside)

When will Rex realize that this is 2013 and not 1985 and stop insisting that ground and pound is the formula to win?

James Walker
  (9:08 AM)

Rex Ryan is stuck with the caveman offense. It's strange because his defenses have always been ahead of the curve. But Ryan needs a good OC, maybe a guy like Norv Turner, to take over that side of the ball and run with it. Of course, the Jets also need a QB and more skill players to succeed. They could lose RB Shonn Greene and TE Dustin Keller in free agency.

James (San Diego)

Is their any chance that Rex might be gone after new GM is hired by Jets?

James Walker
  (9:11 AM)

I don't see it, James. Ryan has two years left on his contract and the Jets don't want to eat that money. I think Ryan gets one more year to prove he can turn things around. Plus, it's a little late in the game to do a coaching search. If the Jets wanted to go that route, they should've started that a week or two ago.

Rob (Rochester, NY)

What about Ryan Fitzpatrick, I see him as not the answer at the quaterback position???..thoughts??

James Walker
  (9:13 AM)

I would be shocked if Ryan Fitzpatrick is Buffalo's starter next season. I expect him to get cut before his $3 million roster bonus is due in March. Fitzpatrick is Chan Gailey's quarterback, not Doug Marrone's. The new coach will want his own guy.

James Walker
  (9:15 AM)

Lovie Smith is still in the running for head-coaching jobs, particularly in San Diego. I doubt he takes a DC job at this moment unless it's a last resort. He was interested in Buffalo as a head coach but not as a DC.

Dylan (Austin, TX) [via mobile]

I'm a big believer in trading down and accumulating more picks (like the Patriots), but the Jets really need a quarterback. Do you think Geno Smith would be available if the Jets traded down in the first or is he going to be gone by pick #9? If so, do you think Aaron Murray is a good option in the 2nd or 3rd round?

James Walker
  (9:17 AM)

I would not take any QB in the top 10 this year. That's my opinion. But a lot can change in the pre-draft process when these players go to the combine and workout for teams. But the game tape tells me the QB class is too risky this year.

Suter (Cando, ND)

Mike Williams, Dewayne Bowe, or Greg Jennings. Which WR do you think the Dolphins will target this offseason?

James Walker
  (9:19 AM)

I think Jennings, Bowe and Wallace are all possibilities for Miami. It could come down to price and who is more affordable. Personally, I like the fit of Jennings reuniting with Joe Philbin.

Juston (Knoxville, TN, USA)

Do you believe that buffalo might try to see if they could get a trade for fred jackson this year?

James Walker
  (9:20 AM)

He's over 30 as a RB, a backup, and he's injury prone. You're not going to get much for Jackson in the trade market. The Bills are better off keeping him. He's a respected leader in the locker room and insurance in case C.J. Spiller is injured.

Corey (Claymont, DE)

James, what will the bills do next year with Cj Spiller and Fred Jackson?

James Walker
  (9:22 AM)

Simple: Start Spiller, give him a bulk of the carries, and spell him with Fred Jackson. If Chan Gailey was still on board, I would say I have no idea. Gailey was too all over the place with his RB rotation and it made little sense.

Dan (MA)

Should the Dolphins go hard after Dustin Keller, or should they give a guy like Travis Beckum a chance to step out of the shadows? They need to address TE.

James Walker
  (9:24 AM)

I think Miami looks in free agency for a tight end. Anthony Fasano is a free agent and was too stiff for Joe Philbin's offense. Keep an eye out for JerMichael Finley. He's not a free agent. But he's due a lot of money next year, and the Packers may not want to pay it. Finley could be a surprise player available that Miami would definitely be interested in.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi Jim, if the Texans play the Patriots the same way they did against the Bengals last week will see another 42-14 score?

James Walker
  (9:26 AM)

That is too much of a hypothetical question. I was in Houston over the weekend, and the Texans didn't play their best game. They won primarily because the Bengals were young and inexperienced. I doubt New England will steamroll over the Texans two times in a row. I expect a more competitive game.

Travis (Indiana)

I've seen a few mock drafts having the Dolphins picking a WR in the first round. Do you see Miami drafting a #1 WR in the first round or picking one up from free agency? Or both?

James Walker
  (9:28 AM)

Not in the first round, Travis. Miami will probably spend big to get a No. 1 WR in free agency. I also expect the Dolphins to make a run at keeping Brian Hartline. That's two WRs right there. So there's no need to add to that position in the first round of the draft.

Brandon (West Des Moines, IA)

The NFL games last weekend were not what I would call exciting. Are the matchups this week going to be a let down as well? Or do you perceive better matchups?

James Walker
  (9:30 AM)

These will be better matchups because these are the eight best teams in the NFL. Wild-card weekend weeds out the pretenders. I think we will see some very good games this weekend.

Shane oswego ny [via mobile]

How do you think doug marrone will do in his first year as head coach of the bills?

James Walker
  (9:32 AM)

It's too early to say. Let's see who he gets at QB first before we make season predictions. I'm taking a wait-and-see approach.

Ryan (Clevelend Ohio)

For the Patriots first round choice this year do you think they shiuld adress and offensive perspective or stick with their plan of rebuilding this defence?

James Walker
  (9:34 AM)

The Patriots have needs on both sides of the ball. They could get an outside WR or a CB or S. Sebastian Vollmer also is a free agent, and New England could need a RT. I think it's really more about position of need than one side of the ball.

Travis (Indiana)

Reggie Bush. Here to stay in Miami or gone?

James Walker
  (9:36 AM)

I expect the Dolphins to play hardball with Bush. They will offer him a contract they are comfortable with, and it will be up to Bush to decide if he wants to take it or leave it for another team. Miami has options behind Bush, so I doubt the Dolphins will overpay to bring him back.

James Walker
  (9:38 AM)

Lamar Miller can be a pretty good running back if he gets more opportunities. Daniel Thomas is ok as a backup if Bush leaves.

Hallphin (Maryland)

The Phins are close, but need more playmakers. How do you see them achieving a balance sustaining/improving the defense and adding some firepower to their offense? I saw a recent Mock with Miami taking an OG in the first. I will lose my mind if they do that.

James Walker
  (9:40 AM)

I think mock drafts are premature this time of year, because free agency comes first. Teams' needs will change based on who they sign in free agency. So I wouldn't take any mock drafts you read in January too serious. Once we get to April, then things become more clear.

Ryan (Clevelend Ohio)

Hello Jim. Quick question about the patriots, if the Texans come out strong what is going to be the Patriots biggest threat?

James Walker
  (9:43 AM)

Texans WR Andre Johnson has the potential to have a big game. I think the Patriots take Johnson away, via double teams or bracket coverage, and tries to see if other players can beat them. QB Matt Schaub needs to be on point in this game, but I don't have a lot of confidence in him. Based on the play-calling last week, it seems Houston didn't have much confidence in Schaub, either.

Virgil (New York)

Keeping the Miami theme up, do you think they will make a splash in the free agent market this year with all the cap space they have?

James Walker
  (9:45 AM)

I think they will. Stephen Ross said "free agency isn't the answer." But I think he meant building a team through free agency only isn't the answer. The Dolphins have built through the draft. They just happen to have a ton of cap room this year to make a move. I expect Miami to spend to the cap.

Maxwell (Bristol, RI)

Which of the 8 remaining teams is the most dangerous underdog?

James Walker
  (9:46 AM)

Probably Green Bay. I think the Packers and 49ers are the two best teams in the NFC. The winner of that game probably goes to the Super Bowl.

Jeremy (GA)

Who is the biggest in-house free agent for the Bills? Byrd, Levitre or someone else?

James Walker
  (9:48 AM)

Both are good, underrated players, Jeremy. But I would say Byrd by a nudge. He's a playmaking safety and those are hard to find. Levitre is a good guard, too. But it's easier to find quality guards in free agency.

Nick Smith ,Florida [via mobile]

Patriots defense any similar to the defenses in the Super Bowl Wins 2001,2003,2004 ?

James Walker
  (9:50 AM)

I don't see it, Nick. The secondary is particulary different. There is no Ty Law on the team this year.

James Walker
  (9:51 AM)

The defenses of the "dynasty" Patriots were much better.

Joe (NY)

So when will the Jets have their new GM in place? I am thinking by Friday your thoughts?

James Walker
  (9:53 AM)

Time is running and the Jets have a lot of roster decisions to make. I think this will be the week something happens. Keep in mind, there are a lot of teams still looking for GMs. The Browns, Chargers and Chiefs have not hired GMs, either.

Jeff (Hudson Valley)

Jets may have a problem getting a quality GM or OC with the salary cap problems and QB issues. Your thoughts?

James Walker
  (9:55 AM)

That is certainly part of it. The person who takes the Jets job knows they have to pretty much gut the roster the get under the cap and stick with a QB who is struggling. In addition to that, the new GM can't choose their own head coach. It's not an attractive job.

Johnny Blackout (Orlando, Fl)

Is this a make it or break it year for Ireland in Miami? It seems like he has the support from Stephen Ross, but i dont know how much longer with the records the team has been producing since he's been here.

James Walker
  (9:57 AM)

Ireland's had three straight losing seasons since Bill Parcells essentially stopped making the calls. Ireland is getting a fourth year with tremendous resources. If Ireland can't get this right, then he's not the right person for the job.

Joe (Miami)

When will the dolphins make the playoffs and win the stuperbowl?

James Walker
  (9:58 AM)

I only take things one year at a time, Joe. I think Miami has a shot to make a jump if it spends its resources correctly. That remains to be seen.

James Walker
  (10:01 AM)

Thanks for all the solid questions. We will chat again next Tuesday after the divisional round of the playoffs.