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09-06-2007, 11:34 AM
Age-old question: Too old?
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Article Last Updated: 09/06/2007 12:37:38 AM MDT

For guys who have lost a step, the graybeards of the Broncos defense sure do turn grumpy real quick if you suggest they're old.

"It doesn't matter whether a football player is young or old. All that counts is if you can make plays," 34-year-old defensive tackle Sam Adams said Wednesday.

These Broncos, from 35-year-old safety John Lynch to new defensive end Simeon Rice, better get used to the grumpy old men jokes.

Denver will start the oldest defense in the NFL this season.

Should a defense once proudly known as the Orange Crush be renamed the Thin Gray Line? Can the Broncos, behind the proven pass-rushing ability of Rice, lead the league in sacks? Or will they give the term "defensive wrinkles" a whole new meaning?

So I asked the 33-year-old Rice, who became a free agent after he flunked a physical with Tampa Bay, if he had grown better with age, or if he was only growing old?

"Both," replied Rice, smiling with the confidence of a pass- rusher with 121 NFL sacks to his name. "When I came into the league, I wasn't as damaged as I am at this point. But I feel as though I'll hold up and be as adequate as I ever was."

His definition of adequate? The best in the NFL.

While projecting lineups is an inexact science because the health of every player is snap- to-snap, the addition of Rice figures to make the Broncos the lone team with a starting defensive 11 whose average age will be in excess of 30 years.

It's enough to make me scratch the thinning hair atop my head and wonder: How does this compute as a dominant defense that won't break down long before the playoffs begin? Are all those X's and O's scribbled by new Broncos defensive guru Jim Bates some sort of Grecian Formula?

"Age is not a determining factor in how one performs on the field," 32-year-old Broncos safety Nick Ferguson insisted.

Although coach Mike Shanahan wasn't certain how much Rice would play in the season-opener at Buffalo on Sunday, the defensive end was listed No. 1 on the depth chart by the team's official website before the 11-year NFL veteran could be assigned a uniform number.

Once Rice gets his groove back and his legs in football shape, Denver figures to be the only league team to start six defensive players with a 30th birthday already in the books. Significant? You bet.

In a young man's game, that's twice the average number of starters in their 30s employed by the NFL's other 31 teams.

"Where having a veteran defense is an advantage is you have guys who have been in tough situations and they know how to fight back," Ferguson said. "You could be down by 14 points, and it could be third- and-5 when we haven't stopped them all day, but veterans keep clawing and scratching until they get back in the game, and they actually have the experience to know how to get it done."

A defense need not lose its teeth due to age. The Baltimore Ravens, who grudgingly surrendered 201 points to lead the league last season, still takes a bite out of foes with 32-year-old linebacker Ray Lewis. Go ahead. Try handing Lewis an AARP card. It might shorten your life span.

The average age, however, of these grizzled Baltimore defenders is 28, nearly two years younger per man than the Broncos. Denver will start three players older than 30 in the secondary alone, which would seem like an invitation to get burned if Denver's cornerbacks were anybody other than Champ Bailey and Dré Bly.

While the Miami defense rests on the enduring pillars of strength that are Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, the average age of the Dolphins unit is a tick under 30 years old. This sport hurts. Won't it take the old bones of the Broncos longer to heal? Won't it be harder for the Denver defense to perform in the body-creaking chill of December than during September, when everything seems fresh?

"No," Ferguson said. "It's not based on age, it's based on the individual and how he takes care of his body. Most teams put so much emphasis on age, but that's not all there is to consider. I know some players who are way younger than me, maybe they're 25 years old, but the way they take care of their bodies it's like they're freakin' 38."

OK, no reason to get grumpy.

Maybe the old, gray Broncos ain't all what they used to be, but these guys can still play some serious "D."

There's no time to waste, however, for thirty-something defenders. The NFL isn't known as the Not For Long without good reason.

This Denver defense is built to win a Super Bowl now, then ask questions about retirement parties later.

I have read reports out of camp that Lynch is playing better than last year,
when he was Pro Bowl, and Adams is throwing offensive linemen at the QB.
Fergie is up to his old sticks, and Simeon is . . . well . . . Simeon. Champ
and Dré are considered the best tandem in the league, 30 or not.

Moreover, we have young Thomas, Moss, Dumervil, Crowder, Abdullah, Cox,
et al. coming up.

This is hardly George Allen's Redskins, when he sold the future for a Super
Bowl now . . . which still eluded him. There are some "old" people on the
squad, but some young bucks are primed to step right up when the oldsters
hang up their spurs.

I'm not worried. How about you?

-----

anton...
09-06-2007, 11:49 AM
not worried at all...

as you said, we have thomas, moss, dumervil, crowder, abdullah, cox, foxy, DJ, paymah, burton, gordon who are all under 26...

all being groomed to take over any time soon...

mike is a captain of a fine ship loaded with experience, and youth...
________
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Skinny
09-06-2007, 11:51 AM
Thanks for the artcle Top.

I think we have a good if not great mix of veterans and youth on the defense. Most importantly, it's at all the positions.

I really think it's vital to a defense as a whole to have that kind of mixture because each individual brings something diffrent to the plate.

Rather it be experiance, which is associated with being a veteran (older), or speed and enthusiasm which can easily been seen in the younger players (kiddies).

They both can play and feed off each other and get better by this mixture.

I am not concerned at all about the age of the defense and think that-that is a huge asset to the defense we have now.

The mixture is excellent IMO.

Lonestar
09-06-2007, 12:27 PM
No worries on my part the old guys have a lot of steam left in the boilers and in Lynch's case from what I have heard he is in the best condition of his career.
Experience will out do pure speed most of the time so one is step slower you adjust in how you line up at the LOS or how far away you line up. The difference if my old calculator worked correctly for 4.3 and 4.7 is about 7 feet at forty yards. How many times are we making 40 yard plays?

Retired_Member_001
09-06-2007, 12:32 PM
I actually think age is a problem particularly in the safety position.

As I said in my article, John Lynch and Nick Ferguson could leave a massive hole in the middle of the field. I don't question their fitness going into the season, just how they will cope throughout a whole season. The experience is needed but both Lynch and Ferguson have had bad injuries that will eventually catch up on them.

Requiem / The Dagda
09-06-2007, 02:07 PM
The age of our safeties are a concern, but Bailey and Bly have many years left in them.

Ian as a linebacker will be 30 next year, but DJ Williams is only 25 years old and it's likely that a younger linebacker will come in over the next year or so.

Throw in Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss at the young age of 23, Tim Crowder who recently turned 22, and Marcus Thomas who doesn't turn 22 until September 23rd and we have four hopeful impact players on our defensive line who are extremely young.

Foxworth and Paymah are both 24, with Paymah turned 25 in November. Former Washington State teammate of Paymah, Hamza Abdullah just turned 24, and Curome Cox is the oldest of our younger players who play a role on our team at 26 years young.

So if we're looking at the youth of this team (Ian doesn't count.) we have eight players on defense under 25, the ninth (Cox) is 26. Eventually, most of them will start, but all play a significant role on this team.

Just keep in mind that guys like Sam Adams are stop-gaps to solving a problem on this team, and players like Lynch and Ferguson are bound to retire soon. I didn't even mention Antwon Burton or Amon Gordon, who could surprise us all, which would even make the core off the future defense younger.

Are most of the highlight names on our defense older? Yeah, most veterans are, however Denver has taken adequate steps in the past several drafts to get youth at almost every position besides safety, but they seemed to be pleased with Cox and Abdullah for now. Denver has loaded up three extra Day 2 selections (although lost a sixth for Kennedy) and will more than likely grab a key player or two on Day 1 with the two choices they have.

Right now, Denver has a lot of savvy old veterans - but we have a lot of youth on this team looking to make an impact. I just named 9 guys on defense, and I didn't even start on the offensive side of the ball. Denver has slowly and secretly built a team with long-term potential on both sides of the ball.

After this year, when some names like Smith, Lynch, etc. possibly retire and some of those stop-gap veterans move on (Rice, Adams) people will see this team as young and upcoming rather than "old". . .

The future is extremely bright here.

Watchthemiddle
09-06-2007, 02:08 PM
I was actually thinking the opposite thing. I think we are a little young on the defensive side of the ball and as a team overall.

Even if we do have some age on defense, that is where you need it. At Lynch's age, he is going to beat you with his mind now before he beats you with his legs.

We need that. Don't mistake age for experience. I will take experience any day over youth.

SBboundBRONCOS
09-06-2007, 03:02 PM
our defense is perfect, while we might have old starters that doesnt mean our defense is old. we will have a lot of rotations coming in and ou of the game, all season long so im not worried one bit about age

i agree with basically everybody here, in saying that we have a very good balance of experience and youth.

only a couple hours untill the football season officially kicks off .. .. and ill be working, damn :mad::tsk:

Lonestar
09-06-2007, 04:25 PM
I actually think age is a problem particularly in the safety position.

As I said in my article, John Lynch and Nick Ferguson could leave a massive hole in the middle of the field. I don't question their fitness going into the season, just how they will cope throughout a whole season. The experience is needed but both Lynch and Ferguson have had bad injuries that will eventually catch up on them.

Lynch to my knowledge has had no injuries over the past 4 years. Since his arrival in DEN has pretty much played everydown since.

I do not see his position being the problem..

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/players/2441/

TXBRONC
09-06-2007, 09:11 PM
I have read reports out of camp that Lynch is playing better than last year,
when he was Pro Bowl, and Adams is throwing offensive linemen at the QB.
Fergie is up to his old sticks, and Simeon is . . . well . . . Simeon. Champ
and Dré are considered the best tandem in the league, 30 or not.

Moreover, we have young Thomas, Moss, Dumervil, Crowder, Abdullah, Cox,
et al. coming up.

This is hardly George Allen's Redskins, when he sold the future for a Super
Bowl now . . . which still eluded him. There are some "old" people on the
squad, but some young bucks are primed to step right up when the oldsters
hang up their spurs.

I'm not worried. How about you?

-----


No I'm not worried, because Shanahan trys to find a good blend of veteran and youth.

BigBroncLove
09-06-2007, 10:26 PM
Well I thinkOne thing really stuck out to me throughout the preseason, and that was the fact that Lynch was often exactly where he needed to be. In every single game he surprised me of how he gravitated to the ball consistently and with authority. A lot of these plays are when preseason mistakes were made by the Denver defense and Lynch was there to compensate. Others, like the drop by the Dallas WR (forget who it was, clayton I think....) who dropped the pass but Lynch was ready to unload on him in short order and either make it an incomplete pass, or fumble IMO. I thought Lynch played to a high level already in only his 3 vanilla games in Bates system, and this will be a year where Lynch shows his A game. This stems largely from the fact that the Broncos seem to be showing a lot of relience on Bly's skills, and his ability to keep with the man coverage assigned to him, leaving Lynch with the freedom I believe on most plays to diagnose and react, soemthing I think he does very well. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the Probowl again this year (though last year I thought it was a minor stretch to see him there, even though he was still one of the best). I don't think Bailey will be able to re-enact his 10 interceptions from last season, but I do believe he will be effective in the man coverage he is likely expected to see.

But overall I would agree we are heavy on the age side. Some of that age may or may not show big this year. I am especially worried about Furgeson after his injury, but mostly I believe a good deal of that aged personel can still compete at a high level, even if the sunset is soon ahead. There is also some interesting youth (Foxworth, Dumerville, the whole D group of the 2007 draft class, and to a lesser extent Hamza Abdullah and Karl Paymah.) there, and so logn as every draft class has shown the promise as the last two, I think the youth mvoement will continue.

Retired_Member_001
09-07-2007, 10:28 AM
Lynch to my knowledge has had no injuries over the past 4 years. Since his arrival in DEN has pretty much played everydown since.

I do not see his position being the problem..

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/players/2441/

I'm talking about the surgery he had on his neck.

I strongly remember a few times last season he had to come out because of problems to his neck.

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