Inside the NFL: Bills hope youthful roster serves them quickly - The Buffalo News

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Inside the NFL: Bills hope youthful roster serves them quickly

The St. Louis Rams have the youngest roster in the NFL, and the Buffalo Bills rank fifth-youngest, according to the league’s annual opening-day demographics report.

The average age of the Bills’ 53-man roster is 25.45 years. That’s a big drop from last year, when the Bills had the sixth-oldest roster, at an average of 26.72 years.

The Bills have 14 rookie or first-year players. Last year they had only six on opening day.

The five youngest rosters in the league: 1. Rams 24.98; 2. Browns 25.25; 3. Jaguars 25.38; 4. Seahawks 25.43; 5. Bills 25.45.

The five oldest rosters: 1. Detroit 27.06; 2. Redskins 26.89; 3. Cardinals 26.81; 4. Broncos 26.70; 5. Panthers 26.70.

How important is the average age of the roster? It’s important if the average is an accurate reflection of the key core players on the team. In that sense, it’s relevant for the Bills, whose fortunes ride with younger players like EJ Manuel, C.J. Spiller, Eric Wood, Marcell Dareus and Stephon Gilmore, among others. It’s not really a problem for the Panthers, who have young stud players (Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Star Lotuleilei) at critical positions.

Seattle, as the numbers suggest, is in great shape. The Seahawks are saving loads of money on the salary cap with QB Russell Wilson playing at an elite level. They have young offensive line anchors in Russell Okung and Max Unger, and they have a young, elite secondary.

Denver, obviously, is in win-now mode with an old roster and 37-year-old Peyton Manning at QB. Other teams with a combination of an aging roster and older quarterback include Arizona, the Giants and Pittsburgh. The Giants have a league-high 15 players age 30 or over. Pittsburgh has 12 (tops in the AFC) and Arizona 11.

Wood No. 3 at center

Today’s game at Ralph Wilson Stadium will feature the No. 1- and No. 3-ranked centers in the NFL in terms of average salary.

The extension Wood signed two weeks ago averages $6.325 million over four years, for a total of $25.5 million. Wood got $14.5 million guaranteed. He’s 27 and at the start of his fifth season.

Carolina’s Ryan Kalil earns an average of $8.18 million a year on a six-year contract worth $49 million. Kalil, 28, is in his seventh season. He signed the contract at age 25 after making two straight Pro Bowls. Kalil also has been second-team All-Pro at center twice.

Second on the center salary list is the Jets’ Nick Mangold, at $7.15 million a year. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and made first-team All Pro once.

Wood’s contract is a deal both he and the Bills can feel good about. The team locked up a talented player in his prime. Wood doesn’t have the individual honors of Kalil and Mangold but his deal eclipsed those of two other very good centers — Houston’s Chris Myers ($6.25 million) and Seattle’s Unger ($5 million). Myers had made the Pro Bowl before signing his deal but was 30 at the time. Unger signed before last season then made first-team All-Pro in 2012.

If the Bills could win more games, Wood should make the Pro Bowl.

Kalil missed the last 11 games of last season due to a Lisfranc foot injury. Watch to see if Dareus can get any push on him today. Kalil, at 6-2½ and 295, doesn’t have an elite frame for a center. But he’s very strong (he bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times entering the draft), smart and he’s a good athlete. And he plays with fierce competitiveness.

Kalil’s dad, Frank, was an 11th-round draft pick of the Bills in 1982 out of Arizona. Frank Kalil wound up going to the USFL and centered for Jim Kelly with the Houston Gamblers in 1984 and ‘85. Ryan Kalil’s mom was Miss California in 1981.

Trojans lead

The struggles of coach Lane Kiffin aside, the University of Southern California leads all colleges with 40 players in the NFL. Southeastern Conference schools hold five of the top 12 spots on the NFL alumni list. The colleges with the most NFL players:

Southern Cal (40), LSU (39), Miami (38), Georgia (36), Florida State (31), Texas (31), Alabama (30), California (30), Tennessee (30), Ohio State (27), Oregon (27), Florida (26).

Southern Cal has 10 linebackers in the NFL. LSU has 11 defensive backs and six defensive tackles.

Chiefs overhaul

It will be interesting to see how Kansas City navigates the first month of the season, starting with today’s game at Dallas, because of the roster overhaul that new coach Andy Reid has conducted.

The Bills have their biggest roster remake since 2001 this year with 21 players new to the organization on the 53-man roster.

Kansas City has 31 new players on the 53-man roster. That includes 11 rookies and 13 veteran free-agent signees. Eight of the newcomers are starters, including quarterback Alex Smith, first-round pick Eric Fisher at offensive tackle, receiver Donnie Avery, defensive tackle Mike DeVito, linebacker Akeem Jordan and cornerback Sean Smith.

The Chiefs had a opening-win over the Jacksonville junior varsity but the schedule now gets tougher. After today, the Chiefs are at Philadelphia, home vs. the Giants and at Tennessee.

Kansas City took advantage of the fact it had the worst record in the league last year by adding seven players off waivers the Monday before the start of the season.

The result was seven new players joining the Chiefs on Monday, all trying frantically to get up to speed even as the rest of the team prepared for their season opener Sunday at Jacksonville.

“The first year,” General Manager John Dorsey said, “sometimes this is what you have to do to move forward. … From the beginning, in January, we said we would turn over every stone possible. And the positive is by being the first pick in the draft, we have the first pick in the waiver claims. It’s a very unique situation. Hopefully it will never happen again.”

Onside kicks

• The weak fan bases in Jacksonville and Tampa were evidenced in the Week One TV ratings. Jacksonville’s market ranked 32nd, with 17.9 percent of the TVs in the market tuned to the Jags game. Tampa was 26th at 25.7. Buffalo was ninth with 34.7 percent of the TVs in the market tuned to the Pats game. Of the TVs that were on in Buffalo Sunday afternoon, 64 percent were tuned to the Bills. Jacksonville’s “share,” as it’s called, was 35 percent.

• Carolina defensive tackle Dwan Edwards kept his house and his family in Buffalo after being released by the Bills and picked up by the Panthers last summer. Edwards told the Charlotte Observer this week: “I signed a four-year deal up there. I assumed I was going to be there a little longer than two years. We had a house in Baltimore and sold it. Really liked upstate New York. People are nice, my kids love their school. My kids snowboard in the wintertime. I’m from Montana originally, so the winters don’t bother me too much. Just a great place for me and my family.”

• One of the mismatches of the week is Miami’s front seven against the Colts’ pass protectors. Cameron Wake had 2.5 sacks and Randy Starks 1.5 vs. the Browns last week. Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted that he “demands better” protection of Luck. Gosder Cherilus goes up against Wake today.


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