Sunday slant: Positional comparisons to 2011

The Vikings' opening-day roster will have at least nine new starters from last year and the average age keeps going down. We compare the players from 2011 to this year at each position, along with the average age of each position group.

By now, the Minnesota Vikings' youth movement is quite apparent.

It seems like ages ago – not just one year – when they had Donovan McNabb, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Remi Ayodele, E.J. Henderson, Cedric Griffin and Husain Abdullah in their opening-day starting lineup. Those parts have been essentially replaced by Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Letroy Guion, Jasper Brinkley, Chris Cook and Harrison Smith.

In 2010, with all of their starters from 2009 intact, the Vikings were the third-oldest team in the league and followed up their NFC Championship run with a 6-10 record that showed experience has to be balanced with athleticism. Last year, the Vikings moved to middle of the NFL pack in age at the start of the regular season with an average age of 26.43. That showed that development takes time, as they went 3-13 and learned some painful lessons about quick roster purges.

This year, their average age dropped a full year to 25.6 after they cut their roster to 53 players Friday night. More moves are coming as NFL team's stabilize their rosters, but the league is expected to release the team-by-team age rankings in the coming days. Suffice it to say the Vikings will be among the top-five youngest teams – by general manager Rick Spielman's design.

Perhaps nowhere have they gotten younger quicker than at quarterback, where Ponder replaces the washed-up McNabb as the opening-day starter. They now average 24.3 years old between the three throwers. But they are actually younger still at tight end, where the retirement of Kleinsasser and free-agent ambivalence toward Shiancoe was replaced by rookie Rhett Ellison and free-agent winner John Carlson.

The offensive line and defensive backfield also got younger with the release of aging veterans.

With that, here is the position-by-position comparison between players on opening day last year and the Vikings' initial 53-man roster after cuts Friday night.

QUARTERBACKS

This year (3) –
Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, McLeod Bethel-Thompson

Last year (3) – Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb
The age factor: The Vikings are perilously thin on experience at quarterback. Webb is 25, Bethel-Thompson 24 and Ponder 24. Average age: 24.3.

RUNNING BACKS

This year (3) – Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata

Last year (3) – Peterson, Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker

The age factor: The Vikings stayed relatively young but changed up their philosophy a bit, going with three physical backs instead of a quicker third-down back. Peterson is 27, Gerhart 25 and Asiata 25. Average age: 25.6.

FULLBACKS

This year (1) – Jerome Felton

Last year (0) – Ryan D'Imperio was on the practice squad.

The age factor: Using D'Imperio for comparison, the Vikings actually got older here. He is 25; Felton is 26 but has a world more experience at fullback. They also have Rhett Ellison as an option there and Asiata might also handle some fullback duties in a pinch. Average age: 26.

WIDE RECEIVERS

This year (5) – Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson (suspended, doesn't count against roster for the first three weeks), Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Jarius Wright

Last year (5) – Harvin, Jenkins, Aromashodu, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo

The age factor: After essentially exchanging Berrian and Camarillo for Burton and Wright, the age has dropped significantly. Harvin is 24, Wright 22, Aromashodu 28, Simpson 26, Burton 22 and Jenkins 30. The biggest question is what the Vikings will do when Simpson returns in Week 4. They will have to make a roster move. Will it be Aromashodu or Burton? Average age: 25.3.

TIGHT ENDS

This year (4) – Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Allen Reisner

Last year (4) – Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Rudolph, Reisner

The age factor: Trading Carlson for Shiancoe, and Ellison for Kleinsasser, certainly lowered the age at tight end. They are more athletic for sure. But will the lack of experience, along with the changes on the offensive line, actually help the pass protection or hurt it? Average age: 24.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Offensive Tackle (3) – Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, Mark Asper

Guard (3) – Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco, Geoff Schwartz

Center (2) – John Sullivan, Joe Berger

Last year (10) – Tackles: Johnson, Loadholt, Patrick Brown; Guards: Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, DeMarcus Love; Centers – Sullivan, Berger, Fusco, Jon Cooper.

The age factor: The release of Hutchinson and Herrera put the wheels in motion for rookie Matt Kalil and second-year player Brandon Fusco to work into the starting lineup. Average age: 26.3.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Defensive End (4) – Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D'Aundre Reed

Defensive Tackle (4) – Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Christian Ballard, Fred Evans

Last year (9) – Defensive end: Allen, Robison, Griffen, Reed, Adrian Awasom; Defensive tackle: Williams (suspended first two game), Guion, Remi Ayodele, Evans, Ballard

The age factor: Not a lot changed on the defensive line, as they cut down on the numbers from nine to eight and exchanged Ayodele for Guion in the starting lineup. Average age: 26.8.

LINEBACKERS

Outside Linebacker (4) – Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Larry Dean, Marvin Mitchell

Middle Linebacker (3) – Jasper Brinkley, Tyrone McKenzie, Audie Cole

Last year (6) – Outside linebacker: Greenway, Erin Henderson, Larry Dean, Kenny Onatolu; Middle linebacker: E.J. Henderson, Xavier Adibi

The age factor: With E.J. Henderson not re-signed, they were bound to get a little younger here, but their first four linebackers on the depth chart are all in at least their third season, with Jasper Brinkley being the youngest. Average age: 26.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Cornerback (6) – Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels

Safety (5) – Mistral Raymond, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo

Last year (10) – Cornerback: Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Cook, Asher Allen, Burton, Sherels; Safety: Tyrell Johnson, Husain Abdullah, Raymond, Eric Frampton

The age factor: Parting ways with Griffin, Johnson, Abdullah and Frampton is a lot of turnover in one year, but the Vikings should be better – and younger – for it. They will be relying on Cook to be more consistent and Winfield to stay healthy, but Robinson should bring an athletic presence to the position that the Vikings haven't seen since Winfield's heyday and Jefferson is another young player (24) with potential. Average age: 24.6.

SPECIALISTS

This year (3) – Chris Kluwe, Blair Walsh, Cullen Loeffler

Last year (3) – Kluwe, Ryan Longwell, Loeffler

The age factor: Trading Longwell for Walsh will make a difference in age and leg strength. While Kluwe and Loeffler get a year older and are both in their 30s, the Vikings got 16 years younger with Walsh (22) for Longwell (38). Average age: 27.6.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"By now, the Minnesota Vikings' youth movement is quite apparent. It seems like ages ago – not just one year – when they had Donovan McNabb, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Remi Ayodele, E.J. Henderson, Cedric Griffin and Husain Abdullah in their opening-day starting lineup. Those parts have been essentially replaced by Christian Ponder, Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph, Letroy Guion, Jasper Brinkley, Chris Cook and Harrison Smith. In 2010, with all of their starters from 2009 intact, the Vikings were the third-oldest team in the league and followed up their NFC Championship run with a 6-10 record that showed experience has to be balanced with athleticism. Last year, the Vikings moved to middle of the NFL pack in age at the start of the regular season with an average age of 26.43. That showed that development takes time, as they went 3-13 and learned some painful lessons about quick roster purges. This year, their average age dropped a full year to 25.6 after they cut their roster to 53 players Friday night. More moves are coming as NFL team's stabilize their rosters, but the league is expected to release the team-by-team age rankings in the coming days. Suffice it to say the Vikings will be among the top-five youngest teams – by general manager Rick Spielman's design. Perhaps nowhere have they gotten younger quicker than at quarterback, where Ponder replaces the washed-up McNabb as the opening-day starter. They now average 24.3 years old between the three throwers. But they are actually younger still at tight end, where the retirement of Kleinsasser and free-agent ambivalence toward Shiancoe was replaced by rookie Rhett Ellison and free-agent winner John Carlson. The offensive line and defensive backfield also got younger with the release of aging veterans. With that, here is the position-by-position comparison between players on opening day last year and the Vikings' initial 53-man roster after cuts Friday night. Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, McLeod Bethel-Thompson Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb The Vikings are perilously thin on experience at quarterback. Webb is 25, Bethel-Thompson 24 and Ponder 24. Average age: 24.3. Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata Peterson, Gerhart, Lorenzo Booker The Vikings stayed relatively young but changed up their philosophy a bit, going with three physical backs instead of a quicker third-down back. Peterson is 27, Gerhart 25 and Asiata 25. Average age: 25.6. Jerome Felton Ryan D'Imperio was on the practice squad. Using D'Imperio for comparison, the Vikings actually got older here. He is 25; Felton is 26 but has a world more experience at fullback. They also have Rhett Ellison as an option there and Asiata might also handle some fullback duties in a pinch. Average age: 26. Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson (suspended, doesn't count against roster for the first three weeks), Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Jarius Wright Harvin, Jenkins, Aromashodu, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo After essentially exchanging Berrian and Camarillo for Burton and Wright, the age has dropped significantly. Harvin is 24, Wright 22, Aromashodu 28, Simpson 26, Burton 22 and Jenkins 30. The biggest question is what the Vikings will do when Simpson returns in Week 4. They will have to make a roster move. Will it be Aromashodu or Burton? Average age: 25.3. Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Allen Reisner Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Rudolph, Reisner Trading Carlson for Shiancoe, and Ellison for Kleinsasser, certainly lowered the age at tight end. They are more athletic for sure. But will the lack of experience, along with the changes on the offensive line, actually help the pass protection or hurt it? Average age: 24. Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, Mark Asper Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco, Geoff Schwartz John Sullivan, Joe Berger Tackles: Johnson, Loadholt, Patrick Brown; Guards: Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, DeMarcus Love; Centers – Sullivan, Berger, Fusco, Jon Cooper. The release of Hutchinson and Herrera put the wheels in motion for rookie Matt Kalil and second-year player Brandon Fusco to work into the starting lineup. Average age: 26.3. Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, D'Aundre Reed Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion, Christian Ballard, Fred Evans Defensive end: Allen, Robison, Griffen, Reed, Adrian Awasom; Defensive tackle: Williams (suspended first two game), Guion, Remi Ayodele, Evans, Ballard Not a lot changed on the defensive line, as they cut down on the numbers from nine to eight and exchanged Ayodele for Guion in the starting lineup. Average age: 26.8. Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Larry Dean, Marvin Mitchell Jasper Brinkley, Tyrone McKenzie, Audie Cole Outside linebacker: Greenway, Erin Henderson, Larry Dean, Kenny Onatolu; Middle linebacker: E.J. Henderson, Xavier Adibi With E.J. Henderson not re-signed, they were bound to get a little younger here, but their first four linebackers on the depth chart are all in at least their third season, with Jasper Brinkley being the youngest. Average age: 26. Antoine Winfield, Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels Mistral Raymond, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo Cornerback: Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Cook, Asher Allen, Burton, Sherels; Safety: Tyrell Johnson, Husain Abdullah, Raymond, Eric Frampton Parting ways with Griffin, Johnson, Abdullah and Frampton is a lot of turnover in one year, but the Vikings should be better – and younger – for it. They will be relying on Cook to be more consistent and Winfield to stay healthy, but Robinson should bring an athletic presence to the position that the Vikings haven't seen since Winfield's heyday and Jefferson is another young player (24) with potential. Average age: 24.6. Chris Kluwe, Blair Walsh, Cullen Loeffler Kluwe, Ryan Longwell, Loeffler Trading Longwell for Walsh will make a difference in age and leg strength. While Kluwe and Loeffler get a year older and are both in their 30s, the Vikings got 16 years younger with Walsh (22) for Longwell (38). Average age: 27.6. 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