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Wulf's Den: How Young Are The Eagles?

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Since Chip Kelly was hired as head coach in late January, there has been talk throughout the organization of building a sustainable, winning program. With an eye on the long-term trajectory of the Eagles roster, there stands a curiosity about the Eagles' relative age compared to the rest of the league.

Simply averaging the age of everyone on the roster isn't what we're looking for however. What good is being young if the young players never see the field? Although the season is only three games old, there is already a sense of which players stand as important figures on their relative teams. Shouldn't 23-year-old Lane Johnson's presence as a starter count more than the handful of snaps played by 33-year-old long snapper Jon Dorenbos?

As the rosters were cut down to 53 players before Week 1, Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com calculated the Eagles as having an average of the 10th-youngest roster in the league. Through three weeks, how much have the youngest Eagles contributed to the action on the field?

Weighing team age by total snaps is not a new idea, and it's been made easier, if not laborious, thanks to the league's available data on snap counts. To calculate each team's snap-weighted age, we multiply every player's age by his number of snaps played, total up that sum and then divide by the total number of snaps. Each team's snap data is tracked almost flawlessly by Football Outsiders, which allows us to calculate a snap-weighted age and ranking not just for teams as a whole, but by each unit as well.

So where do the Eagles rank? With a snap-weighted average age of 26.45 through three games, the Eagles stand as the 15th-youngest team overall. The offense, which does rank atop the league with 7.0 yards per play, is among the older offenses in the league with a snap-weighted age of 27.78. It's no surprise that the offense as a whole is older than last year's version (the 2012 Eagles ranked as the 16th-youngest offense with a snap-weighted age of 26.8) considering the return of Jason Peters, Michael Vick and the additional year for the returning players.

On defense, though, the Eagles rank among the league's youngest. Even with veterans like DeMeco Ryans, Patrick Chung, Cary Williams and Trent Cole playing so much on defense, the unit ranks as the league's eighth-youngest with a snap-weighted age of 25.74. Young stalwarts like Mychal Kendricks, 22, Fletcher Cox, 22, and Brandon Boykin, 23, help keep the future bright on that side of the ball. In fact, looking at least year's youngest defenses can be instructive (the Eagles had the league's 10th-youngest defense last season).

The Eagles' Snap-Weighted Age
Year Total Offense Defense
ST
2013 26.45 (15th) 27.78 (27th) 25.74 (8th) 25.45 (7th)
2012 26.5 (13th) 26.8 (16th) (26.5 (10th) 25.6 (6th)


It's admittedly still very early in the 2013 season, but, as a whole, last year's youngest defenses have already taken a big step forward. Seven of last year's 10 youngest defenses have improved defensively according to Football Outsiders' Defensive DVOA (the Eagles have held steady at 26th overall). More importantly, five of those teams (Tampa Bay, New England, Carolina, Cleveland and Kansas City) have jumped into the top 10 overall defenses this year. The Seattle Seahawks have also moved from second overall to first overall.

All of that is to say that as the Eagles defense, replete with rookies and free-agent imports, continues to grow together in its first season under defensive coordinator Billy Davis, there is reason to expect a significant growth curve.

Big picture, it is also worth noting that the Eagles, to date, have the youngest team in the NFC East. Dallas is one spot behind the Eagles in total snap-weighted age at the moment, while the Washington Redskins rank 29th overall and the New York Giants rank 30th (thanks in large part to the league's second-oldest defense).

Finally, as a good measurement of the young depth throughout the roster, the Eagles special teams rank as the league's seventh-youngest, with a snap-weighted average of 25.45.

(Click to embiggen)

Age Notes From Around The League

-- The New Orleans Saints made a concerted effort to rebuild their defense in the offseason and the early results have shown. They rank as the youngest defense with a snap-weighted age of 24.15. On the flip side, their offense ranks as the oldest in the league with a snap-weighted age 28.38.

-- The Seattle Seahawks, the second-youngest team in total, rank as the second-youngest offense (25.54), the sixth-youngest defense (25.58) and the fifth-youngest special teams (25.42). The Seahawks are also the only team with a winning record among the five youngest teams in the league. The Kansas City Chiefs (ninth) and the New York Jets (10th) are the only other teams with winning records among the top 10 overall.

-- The Cincinnati Bengals have used a slew of recent early-round picks to infuse their skill positions and the results show as they rank as the league's youngest offense with an average age of 26.29. They also ranked as the youngest offense last season.

-- The Pittsburgh Steelers are another team with a strong age dichotomy between offense and defense. Their offense comes in as the eighth-youngest (26.08) while they have the oldest defense through three games (28.63). They also finished 2012 with the oldest defense.

For the full results for each team in the league (not including Thursday night's game between the 49ers and Rams), click here.

Who Survives As The Strongest?

We've found out which Eagle has the worst hair and who has the best style. This week, we dispatch with concerns over appearance and focus on an attribute that actually translates to the football field – strength. If you're trapped under a car, which Eagle would you want walking by as your would-be savior? A record 51 players weighed in to vote for the strongest Eagle, with two players standing above the rest.

First, a note of recognition to DeMeco Ryans, Jason Avant, Jason Kelce, Jason Peters and Allen Barbre, who each received one vote. Several players chose to focus on pound-for-pound strength, leading to a two-way tie for third between Brandon Graham and Colt Anderson, a self-described “pocket Hercules.”

In the end, though, the focus stayed where you might expect, on the line of scrimmage. On one side, Evan Mathis, the Pro Football Focus heartthrob who does, after all, own his own gym. On the other, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, the one they call “Ice.”

Voting was tight between Sopoaga and Mathis throughout, until the victor pulled away by a 24-15 margin. Mathis was unafraid to tout his own worthiness, citing his routine of eight reps of 455 pounds on the bench press.  Sopoaga, on the other hand, downplayed his relative merit. In the very definition of a veteran move, Sopoaga gave his vote to his position coach Jerry Azzinaro.

So who won? The podium below has all your answers (click to embiggen) …

Bo Knows

Each week, we'll sit down with a member of the Eagles to discuss something you may not know about him. This week's subject came about after a cursory Google search revealed the sale of an oil painting entitled "The Butte Missile" for $10,000 ...

Bo Wulf: Alright, so I know all about the "Butte Missile" oil painting that sold for $10,000. My question is, are you the most popular person in the state of Montana?

Colt Anderson: Are you talking about right now or all-time? Have you ever heard of Evel Knievel? I'd say he's probably the most popular.

BW: Are you the most famous living person from Montana?

CA: No, I'd say Monte, the mascot for the University of Montana.

BW: OK, are you the most popular living human being from Montana?

CA: No, I'd say maybe Marc Mariani, he's an NFL guy.

BW: You're more popular than him, come on. I don't think he has any oil paintings that sold for $10,000.

CA: That's just my hometown.

BW: Phil Jackson's the only other one who can compete I think, but he's a little more L.A. now.

CA: There are a few people from Montana, but I can't think of who else.

BW: How many people were in your High School class, 15?

CA: Like 315.

BW: Oh, was that for the whole state?

CA: No, we were a big high school, like 1,300.

BW: So for an ignorant guy from the East coast like me, what's the difference between Montana and the other states out there like Wyoming, Idaho and the Dakotas?

CA: Obviously land, there's a lot more land. There's a lot more space. People aren't in your business.

BW: But those other states have lots of land too.

CA: Oh, you're saying what's the difference between Montana and a Wyoming?

BW: Yeah, what differentiates Montana from Wyoming or Idaho?

CA: You know, I couldn't tell you. Montana is where I was born and raised. To me, that's God's country and I think it's the best place on earth, the nicest people. I love the weather. We get four seasons. The winters can be a little harsh though.

BW: When you go home, do they have parades for you?

CA: Heck no.

BW: Do you get recognized all the time though?

CA: Not really. You know me, I'm not the biggest guy. I keep a low profile. Even though I have long hair, it's not like I flaunt it. I always keep it high and tight.

BW: Have you seen that painting?

CA: Yeah, I know who bought it. It was a family friend. He and the former (Athletic Director) at Montana were bidding back and forth.

BW: What's the Montana-Montana State rivalry like?

CA: Oh, the best rivalry out there. The Brawl of the Wild. It's sweet. There's obviously a bunch of big rivalries out there, but I think it compares to those. You have the two only big teams in Montana going head-to-head. You're either a Bobcat or you're a Grizzly.

BW: What's the stereotype of someone who goes to Montana or Montana State? What do people from Montana say about people from Montana State and vice-versa?

CA: I couldn't really tell you. When we were there, they had a good program but we always felt like we had the dominant program.

BW: Did you win all four of your years?

CA: Four out of five. The last three years, the three years I started we won.

BW: So you made the difference?

CA: No, we all did.

BW: Quick, what's the capital of Montana?

CA (without missing a beat): Helena

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