Built for the long haul

Thompson continues to keep Packers young, competitive, says Packer Report's Todd Korth

If you were a little surprised by the news today that the Green Bay Packers are tied for the youngest team in the NFL, you're not the only one. It caught my attention as well, even with quarterback Brett Favre and long snapper Rob Davis no longer on the roster.

Take a look at the Packers' roster and you'll see at least five key players who are 30-something. They include cornerbacks Al Harris, 33, and Charles Woodson, 31; offensive tackles Chad Clifton, 32, and Mark Tauscher, 31; and pass-rushing defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, 30. All are well above the Packers' average age of 25.57 years on its opening day roster.

It's the third straight season that the Packers feature the NFL's youngest team. Kansas City also has the same average age of the Packers, but which team would you rather be rooting for this year? Last year as well?

The average age of the team is about the only thing in common that the Chiefs have with the Packers this year. They pale in comparison to talent and many are predicting them to be one of the worst teams in the league while many, including yours truly, feel the Packers will win the NFC North Division title for the second straight season.

Though the Packers have had the youngest team in the league in the last two seasons, they have never finished with less than a .500 record. Some might say that the Packers had Favre the last two years, therefore, that's why they've been able to win games. That's somewhat true, but Favre isn't the only reason why the Packers have enjoyed success despite their youth.

General manager Ted Thompson has done an impressive job of cultivating in younger players for veterans while at the same time retaining veterans at key positions. For example, everyone was wondering why Thompson backed off on trying to re-sign Ahman Green during the off-season of 2007. Green left via free agency, but Thompson unearthed a gem in Ryan Grant. This year, many feel the Packers will be doomed without Favre. Rodgers showed the football world on Monday night that he's ready to pick up where Favre left off.

For the most part, Thompson has left some of the skill positions on the team filled by veterans while younger players develop behind and around them prepare or learn on the run. Rodgers took notes for three seasons behind Favre and now he is chomping at the bit to prove he is worthy and be consistent in the NFL.

As Thompson slowly plugs skill positions with young but ready-to-go players, the team continues to win. That's a combination that is difficult to beat and worthy of praise for Thompson.

Who knows which veteran skill players will be replaced next on the Packers? It all depends on how prepared the depth behind them is. If the Packers feel after this season that Driver's effectiveness has expired, it wouldn't be too surprising to see the team insert a new starter, like Jordy Nelson. If Harris or Woodson have subpar seasons, it's possible that one of them may be sent packing next season.

The Packers are young, but overcome the youth with talent sprinkled in with a touch of veterans. As long as Thompson is stirring the pot, the Packers will be young yet competitive.

Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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