No question the Jets are going to have a youthful roster this season. But is there any way to quantify that other than to say they'll be one of the youngest teams in the NFL?
Why, yes, there is. We can say definitively that at this stage of the offseason, shortly after the full-squad minicamp concluded, the 2021 Jets are the youngest the team has been at this spot on the calendar in the last two decades.
We'll do that by taking the rosters meticulously maintained by the Jets' media relations department since the early 2000s and doing some number crunching to average all players' ages and years of NFL service at the end of each offseason's minicamp.
Regarding average age, the Jets' current 90-man roster is the youngest of the last 20 June-July rosters, while in terms of average NFL seasons completed, this roster is the fourth-most inexperienced. Here are the top five in each category, with the age column showing average years per player and the experience column how many NFL seasons each player had averaged before the start of the upcoming season:
|Season||Avg Age||Season||Avg Exp|
There's another, less definitive, way we could gauge the experience of this year's roster and that is by looking at each Jets roster back to the Sixties and the days of the American Football League.
Assuming S Marcus Maye and LS Thomas Hennessy will be in green and white all season long, from Sept. 12 at Carolina through Jan. 9 at Buffalo (good assumption), those two will be the players with the most Jets experience on the roster, five seasons each since they first arrived in 2017. Bear in mind we are not including players with more NFL experience in this list, just more Jets experience.
Five completed seasons is not a lot for a most senior Jet. How does it stack up in franchise history?
As it turns out, Maye and Hennessy and, last season, Jordan Jenkins will be the least-experienced most-senior Jets in franchise history, or since 1965, which is the first season there could have been sixth-year Jets/Titans — and were in WR Don Maynard. LB Larry Grantham, RB Bill Mathis and C Mike Hudock.
Every season since then, the roster has always had at least one player who was in at least his sixth with the Green & White — from Randy Rasmussen in '72-81 through, among others, Wesley Walker, Dan Alexander, Kyle Clifton, Mo Lewis, Wayne Chrebet, Shaun Ellis, Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, David Harris and Bilal Powell.
What does this all mean for the '21 Jets? Well, it is true in general and with the Jets specifically that the older/more experienced teams on average have better seasons. But the 2007 Jets, the oldest group of the last 20 years (average age 26.45 years) went 4-12. And the fourth-youngest team in 2006 came in as a 10-6 playoff team. (Both were Eric Mangini squads.) So anything is possible.
As head coach Robert Saleh explained of the "ups and downs of youth":
"If you coach and you invest and as a player you reciprocate and you invest back, especially when you're youthful and you've got juice in your legs and you're still running that 4.4 forty that you ran at the Combine because you're young, and you can get your mind to a veteran's frame of mind as fast as you can, then that's where you become an explosive team in a hurry.
"But to get to that point takes some trials and tribulations, some bumps in the road and some headaches. You can't, as a football coach, be afraid to go through those bumps because there's light at the end of the tunnel. It might be a freight train or it's actual light, but it doesn't matter, we're going through that tunnel and you've just got to go. It's an exciting time for these young guys, it's an exciting time for this organization, and we're just excited to see how it plays out."