Kristian: Saints building defensive strength for the long haul
The Saints began reshaping their roster early in the off-season, releasing veterans Roman Harper, Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma and Jabari Greer. Some of those players were coming off injuries, but for the most part, the Saints have made a concerted effort to get younger players in, keeping longevity in mind while retooling their defense.
The average age of a Saints defender is 25 years old. Clearly, Payton and company want to have a sustainable defense for the long term. Let’s take a look at some of the top players on that defense and their age.
OLB Junior Galette is 25 years old and is coming off a monster 2013 season with 12 sacks. Defensive End Cameron Jordan is 24, and like Galette he ended his breakout season with 12.5 sacks. The oldest player that was a starter last year was Brodrick Bunkley, and he’s 30. However, he might not be the starter or on the roster at all come training camp.
Last year’s number one pick safety Kenny Vaccaro is but 23. Keenan Lewis, the team’s best cover corner, is 27. At inside linebacker (starters) David Hawthorne is 28 and Curtis Lofton is 27. Get the theme here?
Thirty is young to you and me. In the NFL, that is retirement age. It’s assisted-living age! The Saints are building a defense that will not only be better in 2014 but will also likely be around for a while. When you have that kind of youth coupled with talent on defense, it tends to stick around for a while.
The Saints continued to add to that youth during free agency with grabbing Safety Jairus Byrd, who’s also just 27 years old. Don’t mistake youth for inexperience on this defense. Aside from Kenny Vaccaro, every penciled-in starter on defense has two or more years under their belt as the front line guy.
With the talent, experience, and youth coming together for a second season under Rob Ryan, I’m intrigued to see the growth of the Saints D in 2014. "Ryan’s Wrecking Crew" has the chance to be scary good next season. I expect them to draft at least one cornerback in May and perhaps a linebacker. You can also never have enough defensive linemen!