In response to a ProFootballTalk story and a FanPost by our own Tiller, I'd like to examine a question that is on everyone's mind: just how old are the Redskins? And can an old roster make it through a season?
An article on Comcast SportsNet in Washington projects the Redskins roster to be about 28.5 years old on average at each position, which would make it the oldest in the league (although this is a ridiculous statement because I don't know how this can be calculated given that no rosters have been set yet). According to the article, "The 22 players who started the 2009 season opener averaged 29.0 years of age. The 22 who are likely to start this year average 29.7 years."
So, let's break it down. How old are the Redskins? Are they too old? Or maybe Comcast SportsNet just made a ridiculous roster projection.
Let's take a look.
First, let's get this assessment straight -- the roster was chosen by beat writer Ryan O'Halloran based on what he thinks went down at the minicamps and OTA's.
For the record, ROH's roster does not include Albert Haynesworth, Malcolm Kelly, Stephon Heyer, Willie Parker or Erik Cook, one of our 7th round picks. It does include Joey Galloway, Ryan Torain, and only six defensive linemen (sure, we're only playing three up top only one back-up for each spot?) along with six (?!) wide receivers.
Not to criticize ROH too much here, because he's a hardworking journalist who has seen more camp than we have, but his projection is not even close to realistic. Let's break it down by position, shall we? Have the Redskins gotten older? If so, is it noticeable?
Coming up is my first roster projection to this point, get excited.
QB (3) -- McNabb, Grossman, Brennan/Bartel (It simply doesn't matter who our third stringer is, so don't worry about it)
This position is one where we did get older at the top -- but can you argue with that? Donovan is the best quarterback we've had since Rypien. He is a leader, a face of the franchise, and a strong statement at a position in which we have had nothing but question marks since most of our readers became fans. Yes, he's older than Campbell. But is that a valid concern? Oh yeah, and Grossman is about a whole decade younger than Todd Collins, last year's relatively ineffective backup to Jason Campbell. So really, if you care about average age, this position actually got younger (Campbell and Collins average out to 33, Donovan and Grossman average out to 31.5).
RB (4) -- Portis, Johnson, Parker, Sellers
We've all heard news that Johnson and Parker have looked pretty good since they've been added to the Redskins roster and until we hear otherwise, I'm gonna say they all make the squad. I'd like to point out that Johnson and Betts are two months apart (Johnson is younger) and Parker is actually a year younger than Rock Cartwright. And think about this -- Betts did not even sign with anyone since he got cut. We upgraded. And no, we're not older in our backups. Yes, this is not a young position. Yes, this is a weak position. But it is not older than last year, really, unless you count Ganther or other young players... who sucked.
WR (5) -- Moss, Thomas, Kelly, Wade, Austin
You know Shanahan will grab hold of one of those veterans that we signed, but one of them will not be Joey Galloway unless he really blows people away. Seeing as he hasn't done that since he was on the Cowboys, I don't see that happening. Bobby Wade would be an adequate fourth receiver, probably just as good as Randle-El was. I assume here that Shanahan will want to keep the player he drafted (Austin) on the squad for kick returns. So, this is the first point where I really disagree with ROH. I just can't see the Redskins keeping six receivers or them keeping Joey Galloway. Or Mike Furrey. Thomas and Kelly began to show up last season, and now that we have a quarterback who can make better reads (and who will have more time to throw), they are the receivers we want on the squad, not guys like Galloway or Furrey who haven't made an impact in the league in a few seasons. And how exactly can anyone say Malcolm Kelly, our tallest receiver who was probably our most improved player at the end of the season, won't make this team? This is a pretty average unit in terms of both talent and age, but I think Moss will look a lot younger now that he has someone who can make the deep throws as well as anyone in the league.
TE (3)-- Cooley, Davis, Morris
We got younger here if Yoder isn't retained (I don't know his status, does anyone here?) with the addition of Morris. And this is the strongest, youngest, most brag-worthy part of our whole team. Win.
OL (9) -- T. Williams, Dockery, Rabach, Hicks, Brown, Cook, Heyer, Capers, M. Williams.
Shanahan drafted Capers and Cook for a reason. They may make the practice squad by virtue of not being good enough yet for the 53, but who would they need to beat out for roster spots exactly? Edwin Williams, Will Montgomery and Chad "Intoxicated in Public" Reinhart? Maybe one of those guys makes the team over a rookie, but my guess is we got much younger and better here from last season and our rookies make it. That's three rookies out of nine players, along with a young backup who has starting experience in Heyer and guys like Mike Williams, Derrick Dockery and Jamaal Brown who aren't old players yet. (Rabach's getting up there, but he is vastly underrated, I think.) Losing Samuels and drafting three rookies makes this unit remarkably younger, although Brown is older than Heyer by a handful of years (but, as far as we know, he's much better...).
DL (8) -- Haynesworth, Carriker, Ke'moeatu, Daniels, Golston, Holliday, Green, Montgomery.
First of all, if Haynesworth hasn't been traded yet, he's not going to be. It's July. He's coming to camp and he'll be behind, but he'll play. He's made his value much lower than it truly is, and he'll need to play in order to even get moved at this point. He will be on the opening day roster, even if he isn't a starter. How would we improve this season by trading him? Sorry, ROH, I don't see him getting moved.
Now, DL is a position where we did get older, but we also had new needs. By switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4, the Redskins need guys who can play nose tackle. I really wish we had found one in the draft, but we had other plans. Therefore, we did have to sign guys like Ma'ake and Howard Green, two older veterans who can play the spot. I believe, though, that the Redskins should keep Anthony Montgomery, who is the perfect size and build for that nose tackle spot. You need backups for that position. He and Golston are still young players, and so is Adam Carriker. However, Vonnie Holliday is another older player, as is the immortal Phillip Daniels. So, I concede, this is a position where we did get older -- but is it that big of a deal when you consider...
LB (9) -- Orakpo, Jarmon, Wilson, Carter, Fletcher, McIntosh, Alexander, Riley, Blades
Look at that group right there -- Fletcher is the only player over 30 on that list. Orakpo and Jarmon are going nowhere but up and are both ridiculously young. Carter is 30, but he's coming off the best year in his career. Fletcher, like Daniels, is ageless. The linebacking corps is the strength of the defense. This is a fast, largely young, sure-tackling group. I love McIntosh, who's in his fifth season now, only 27. Wilson will improve in the 3-4 and guys like Riley, our fourth round pick, Jarmon, and Blades will make an impact every game on special teams, if not more often than that.
CB -- Hall, Rogers, Buchanon, Tryon, Barnes
I go with ROH's projection here. This is another young part of this team. Hall and Rogers have been in the league for a while, but Hall is shockingly only 26 and Rogers is 29 (he's older than I thought!). Barnes and Tryon are both young players who will benefit from a blitzing defense (they won't have to be in coverage as long). Buchanon, 29, is younger than Smoot was. But honestly, if we don't want to get beaten in coverage every second, you better hope we can blitz or that Blache wasn't totally senile when he pushed for Barnes and Tryon, because they have a lot of work to do.
S -- Landry, Horton, Doughty, Moore
Another young part of the squad. Doughty is the oldest out of this crew and he's still 27. Landry and Horton are young players who are now playing their natural positions (finally) and Kareem Moore turns 26 in a month. I'm impressed with how young all of these players are.
Our special teams unit (Gano, Bidwell, who even cares) should not factor into the age question.
So, if you look at this team as a whole, you have a few groups that are older (in a statistically significant sense) than last year. One unit: DL. Am I missing anything?
If you look at groups that got younger: TE, OL, CB.
Groups that stayed the same (pretty much): RB, WR (although Randle-El is gone), LB, S. I'm going to include QB in here for the sake of argument, even though it technically got younger, but it got older at the top.
Of the players that made us get older, who are you going to worry about? McNabb? I concede the defensive line has some veterans that make us all nervous, but we aren't counting on the defensive line to do much other than clog space so our linebackers can make plays. And while we don't have a stable of young superstars, there are really young players we can be thankful for: Brian Orakpo, Trent Williams, Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, DeAngelo Hall, LaRon Landry, and Chris Horton to name a few.
So before you assume the Redskins are an ancient team, remember this: for a team with only six picks (that they got out of nowhere), this is a team that will probably end up being slightly younger than it was last season (considering that 38-year old Joey Galloway will not be included on this roster). If someone's got enough time and a calculator, go right ahead and prove me wrong. But on the whole, this is a team that is not too old. It's not as young as the Eagles, but ask the Saints or Patriots, the league's oldest two teams last year.
Age is a relatively irrelevant statistic, given that not all young teams win (or even are good in a few years) and not all old teams are bad or incapable of rebuilding. Let's hope the Redskins prove me right this season.