Wake-Up Call: Are the Eagles a Young Team?

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Following the Eagles’ playoff loss to the Saints, Jeffrey Lurie was asked what needs to happen for his team to take the next step.

After noting that getting off to a better start would help in the future, he said: “This year we had a young team, and they were just finding out how good they were.”

But how young were the Eagles compared to the other 31 teams?

Chase Stuart of Football Perspective recently tried to measure age in the most relevant way possible. He used Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value numbers. Click here for a detailed explanation, but the basic gist is players who contribute most to a team’s success (or failure) carry more weight than guys who rarely play. It’s not just an average of the 53-man roster.

Stuart then took a look at each team’s offense and defense to determine which units are the oldest and youngest in the league.

So let’s get to the Eagles. Overall, he has the Eagles as the 14th-youngest team in the NFL, or right around the middle of the pack. If you’re wondering about the other NFC East teams, the Cowboys are eighth, the Redskins 24th and the Giants 30th.

Defensively, the Eagles rank fifth, which makes sense. Among their 12 starters (let’s throw Brandon Boykin in there), five were first- or second-year players in 2013, including the entire defensive line. That number jumps to six if you want to count Earl Wolff. It’s reasonable to expect many of these younger players who have flashed potential to improve going forward.

Offensively is where Stuart’s numbers are eye-opening. The Eagles rank 24th with an average adjusted team age of 27.7.

When looking at the draft, pundits often pinpoint immediate needs. The Eagles, for example, could use a safety since that was a weakness last season.

But coaches and GMs need to take bigger-picture views. So where are the Eagles old? One area is the offensive line. Jason Kelce (26) and Lane Johnson (24) are young, but Jason Peters (32), Todd Herremans (31) and Evan Mathis (32) are a different story.

Mathis showed no signs of slowing down in 2013 and could be an exception considering he didn’t play a lot early in his career. Athletically, Peters seems to be the exception to most rules, although he was not the same player in 2013 that he was in 2011. And Herremans’ best days are behind him.

The Eagles are relatively young at the skill positions with guys like LeSean McCoy (25), DeSean Jackson (27) and Nick Foles (25) in their primes. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see them target some young bodies up front in the draft.

Maybe it’s a young guard who can challenge Herremans right away. Or perhaps someone with versatility who can start inside and eventually take over at right tackle if Johnson moves over to the left side.

The offensive line had the same five starters play all 16 games in 2013. That’s a credit to their individual efforts and the team’s sports science initiatives. But given the unit’s relative age, getting younger up front is something Howie Roseman and company will look at this offseason.

WHAT YOU MISSED

McCoy fired a jab at Richard Sherman.

Michael Vick says he’s done with QB battles.

Nick Foles says he’s not afraid to throw INTs and talks Napoleon Dynamite.

Our offseason outlook series continues with a look at the Birds’ tight ends.

Draft buzz and an interesting revelation by Brian Dawkins in our latest national media roundup.

T-Mac takes a look at Matt Barkley’s projected role in 2014.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Broncos WR Andre Caldwell tells Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com that he could see himself thriving in Chip Kelly’s offense:

“That’s a place I could expand on my career and make something happen for that team. I don’t know what it’s like there, but it seems like a great place to be, and they’re building and getting better now that Chip Kelly is going to be there. I could definitely open up that offense with my skill set.”

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz on BYU LB Kyle Van Noy, a prospect we wrote about last week:

I’ve written plenty about Van Noy recently. Some think of him as an OLB, but I think he could be a really good fit inside. Spent his Junior year going after the QB and piled up 13 sacks and 6 FFs. Dropped into coverage more as a Senior and proved to be very effective playing in space. Had 2 INTs and 7 pass deflections. Smart, instinctive LB that could thrive as 3-4 ILB where he’s used to cover and blitz.

COMING UP

We’ll talk Eagles offensive line and more.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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