The Bengals made it a point this offseason to become a faster team, and along the way they also became the youngest team the Bengals have fielded in five years.
Jimmy Kempski of The Philly Voice calculated the average age of every NFL roster after the 53-man rosters were set (as he does every year), and the Bengals now rank third youngest in the NFL. The only teams with a younger roster are the Browns and Rams.
The Bengals’ average age is now 25.48, which dropped from 26.3 last season. That was good enough for the 23rd oldest roster in the NFL in 2016. According to the data, this is the youngest the Bengals have been in five years. The next youngest team was 2013 when they were an average of 25.91, which was the 12th youngest roster in the league that season. What attributed to this drop?
Obviously several long time Bengals moved on in free agency. Andrew Whitworth, who will be 36 in December, left for the Rams. Domata Peko, 33 in November, is in Denver now. Wallace Gilberry, who will be 33 in December, is gone after a brief reappearance on the roster.
The Bengals also moved on from a few veteran free agents they’ve added over the past few years. Karlos Dansby, 36 in November, returned to the Cardinals after one season with the Bengals. Cincinnati also released Eric Winston, 34 in November, during the final cuts before the regular season.
The Bengals replaced most of these players with rookies or very young players, but they didn’t abandon bringing in vets altogether. They brought back Andre Smith, 30 years old, after a brief stint in Minnesota. Cincinnati also replaced Dansby with Kevin Minter, 26.
Still the obvious reason for this drop is the Bengals’ plan to get younger and faster. Some of the youngest players include Josh Malone and Joe Mixon who are both 21-years-old. The Bengals also have seven players who are 22-years-old, highlighted by John Ross, Jordan Willis, Andrew Billings and Tyler Boyd. They have four 23-year-olds including Ryan Glasgow and Cody Core. The Bengals also have 10 guys who are 24-year-old, including Jeremy Hill, William Jackson and Nick Vigil. It is incredible how young a lot of the major players for the Bengals are.
The only down side is there will be plenty of players taking their first NFL snaps on Sunday against the Ravens. That’s a lot of inexperience. There are seven rookies who could see playing time Sunday. Most of them are backups, but they are players who should be rotated in fairly regularly like Willis, Mixon, and Carl Lawson. There are also players like Jackson and Billings who missed all of last season while on IR and will be seeing their first NFL action on Sunday. Jackson may even start during Adam Jones’ one-game suspension.
The difference between the Bengals and the other youngest teams, like the Browns and Rams, is the Bengals have talent and veterans at important positions. While the Browns and Rams will be relying on DeShone Kizer and Jared Goff respectively this season at quarterback, the Bengals have Andy Dalton who has seen everything the NFL can possibly throw at you. The Bengals also have players like A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert on offense to help the young receivers along. Mixon has two talented backs in front of him in Giovani Bernard and Hill to learn from. The rookie pass rushers and defensive linemen have two of the best in the league in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap from whom they can learn. They key is the Bengals aren’t relying on these young guys as starters, for the most part. They are sprinkling them in, and getting their feet wet instead of throwing them in the ocean hoping they don’t sink.
The Ravens rank 25th (26.42 years old) on the list as one of the oldest rosters in the NFL while the Steelers around the middle of the road at 18th (26.06). You may be asking what the big difference is between the Bengals average age (25.48) and the Steelers or Ravens. Well Kempski answers that for you.
Note: Every year I do this study, I seem to get the same basic comment, which I'll address ahead of time.
"The difference between the Browns and Falcons is only 3.04 years. So what?"
While 3.04 years may not be a monumental difference between two individual players, keep in mind that these are the average ages of 53 players per team.
3.04 years on average * 53 players = A difference of about 161.1 total years between the Browns and Falcons.
In other words, if you took the 16 oldest Cardinals and shaved 10 years off each of their ages, their roster still wouldn't be as young as the Browns.
Will youth help the Bengals this year? We’ll begin to find out on Sunday.