A dose of youth could help
Anyone concerned that the Bears will automatically be doomed to mediocrity because they could start three rookies opening day – middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic, right tackle Jordan Mills and right guard Kyle Long – needn’t worry.
An infusion of youth doesn’t necessarily mean a team will struggle through growing pains. It’s possible to be very young and very competitive.
According to information tabulated by ESPN.com’s Mike Sando for his NFL Nation Blog, the Seahawks had the fourth-youngest starting lineup in the NFL, and the Packers had the sixth-youngest lineup. Both teams went 11-5 and qualified for the postseason in 2012. The 10-6 Bengals, also a playoff team, had the seventh-youngest starters. The 10-6 Vikings, who edged the Bears for the NFC’s sixth playoff spot, were ninth youngest.
Sando’s numbers were crunched about two months before training camps opened, so there could be some shifting among teams, most notably the Bears, who had the oldest starting lineup in the league.
But that ranking had 11-year veteran D.J. Williams at middle linebacker instead of Bostic and either J’Marcus Webb or Jonathan Scott instead of Mills at right tackle.
With a nod toward full disclosure, the teams with the very most experience enjoyed quite a bit of success in 2012. After the 10-6 Bears, the next five oldest starting lineups all made the playoffs in 2012; the Falcons (13-3), Texans (12-4), Redskins (10-6), Broncos (13-3) and Patriots (12-4).
Experience for the most part, pays dividends, but a sprinkling of youth, especially in an extremely veteran lineup, can be an effective elixir.