We've been over the discussion a million times now. Which positions should be upgraded and which shouldn't. The consensus seems to be that SS, RT and ILB are the positions that need new starters, but what about the positions as a whole?
AJ Smith does an excellent job of bringing in young players to serve as backups and eventually take over the starter's role.....so has the team remained young? We're going break down the age of the San Diego Chargers roster by position group, then compare it to some of the other contenders in the NFL.
QB: Philip Rivers (27), Billy Volek (33), Charlie Whitehurst (26)
Median Age: 28.6 years
This is right where you'd like it to be. The Chargers are in a perfect situation with a young franchise QB, a veteran backup who can come in at any time and play well, and a young third stringer who works as a project and a backup plan in case of some sort of career-ending injury to Rivers. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are roughly the same age as Volek.
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson (30), Darren Sproles (26), Gartrell Johnson (23), Jacob Hester (24)
Median Age: 25.7 years
Not bad at all. You'd obviously prefer to have Tomlinson be 26 and Sproles be 30, but since we've had Tomlinson for eight seasons we really can't complain. Unless I'm wrong I don't think any of these guys came out of college early. Some other RBs around the league: L Johnson (29), A Peterson (24), M Turner (27), C Portis (27), T Jones (30), W Parker (28). Although Tomlinson may be considered "up there" in age and miles for a running back, this group is quite young.
WR/TE: Vincent Jackson (26), Chris Chambers (30), Malcom Floyd (27), Craig Davis (23), Legedu Naanee (25), Antonio Gates (29), Brandon Manumaleuna (29)
Median Age: 27 years
Davis' age is a bit shocking, isn't it? Although he's about to start his third season he's the same age as the current crop of rookies. That definitely makes me feel a little better about his lackluster development thusfar, and I'm sure it loosens the leash from the team as well. Considering Jackson and Floyd didn't flash anything until they were 24 or 25, Davis still has a chance to be a break out player. Some top WRs: A Johnson (27), L Fitzgerald (25), S Smith (30), B Marshall (25), A Bryant (28), R Wayne (30), T Owens (35), H Ward (33), D Mason (35). The Chargers are right where they should be with this group. Chambers, after being the only receiving option for years in Miami, may have more mileage on him than your average 30 year old wideout.
OL: Marcus McNeil (25), Kris Dielman (28), Nick Hardwick (27), Louis Vasquez (22), Kynan Forney (30), Scott Mruczkowski (27), Jeromey Clary (25), L.J. Shelton (33)
Median Age: 27.1 years
Now that's great to see. If Vasquez beats out Forney, nobody on the starting offensive line will be older than 28. That's the way to build an offensive line, so that the players can spend a few years playing with each other and growing together. The most shocking thing on that list for me is McNeil. With all of the health problems he had last season, I completely forgot how young he was. It seems like he's been at LT forever already. It's also hard for me to remember when it wasn't McNeil/Dielman/Hardwick suring up the left side of that line. Around the NFL ages: Flozell Adams (34), Khalif Barnes (27), Jammal Brown (28), Levi Brown (25), Marc Colombo (30), Chad Clifton (32), Willie Colon (26), Leonard Davis (30), Ryan Diem (29), Alan Faneca (32), Robert Gallery (28).
DL: Jacques Cesaire (28), Luis Castillo (25), Vaughn Martin (22), Ryon Bingham (28), Jamal Williams (33)
Median Age: 27.2
It's funny how each one of these position groups is generally a bunch of young guys and one or two veterans. Can you imagine Williams, 33 and with bad knees, trying to keep up with the likes of Castillo and Martin? Good thing he can push a house off it's foundation. Other NFL stars: Shaun Rogers (30), Vince Wilfork (27), Shaun Ellis (31), Haloti Ngata (25), Albert Haynesworth (28), Richard Seymour (29), Julius Peppers (29). What's shocking to me about this is how obvious a players "prime" years are becoming. There are the superstars that come flying out of the gate and making a huge splash at 24 or 25, but generally it appears 26-29 years of age is when a player is reaching his full potential. I thought it'd be different dependant upon the position group, but it doesn't appear so. Although I guess you could argue that the two QB comparables I mentioned had their best year around the time they turned 30.
LB: Stephen Cooper (30), Tim Dobbins (26), Antwan Applewhite (23), Kevin Burnett (26), Larry English (23), Brandon Siler (23), Shawne Merriman (25), Shaun Phillips (28), Jyles Tucker (25)
Median Age: 25.4
Good God, that's an interesting list. Did anyone realize Siler and Applewhite were 23? It's like they're rookies. And I can't believe Merriman is only 25. 25!! He's a three-time Pro Bowler and he missed all of last season. Maybe I'm too used to the players like Dobbins and Cooper, that work their way up the ladder, but that seems ridiculous. The difference in age between Phillips and Merriman, or Phillips and English for that matter, is shocking to me. Let's assume Burnett wins the starting job at ILB. Our linebacking corps in 2009 would be 25, 26, 30, 28. That's awesome. AJ Smith really does not get enough credit for how he builds a roster. Seriously, how many 30+ players have we run into thus far? Six? How many are starters? Three? This team is build for the long-haul. Let's look at other LBs: D'Qwell Jackson (25), Patrick Willis (24), James Farrior (34), Jerod Mayo (23), Eric Barton (31), Karlos Dansby (27), Ray Lewis (34), Bradie James (28), James Harrison (31).
CB/S: Antoine Cason (22), Antonio Cromartie (25), Quentin Jammer (30), Steve Gregory (26), Paul Oliver (25), Clinton Hart (31), Eric Weddle (24), Kevin Ellison (22)
Median Age: 25.6
The second youngest group behind the LBs, just narrowly beating out the RBs. That is a young group. Even if Jammer gets hurt or falls off, Cason is there to take his place. If Hart can't perform this preseason, he'll lose his job to Ellison or Oliver. There are plenty of teams that will take a whole bunch of 30 year olds in important roles on their roster, but it's because they don't do nearly as good a job of drafting and signing undrafted free agents as AJ Smith. He develops the talent so that losing a player like Marlon McCree, Donnie Edwards, Clinton Hart or God-forbid Shawne Merriman, doesn't destroy the team. In fact, the team never misses a beat. I know everyone likes AJ and how he's turned around the team, but when you really look at the roster you have to question whether he ever deserves any criticism at all. The man operates at a level different from most other NFL GMs.
Other corners and safeties: Gibril WIlson (27), Antoine Winfield (31), Charles Tillman (28), Ed Reed (30), Nick Collins (25), Michael Griffin (24), Troy Polamalu (28), Charles Woodson (32), Cortland Finnegan (25).