Almost like an annual right of passage I print up 32 team rosters and pour through the numbers. How many Rookies, how many new players overall, how many players 30 or older, and on and on. Then I present a few observations that seem like they might have some significance in the big scheme of pro football for the new season. So thanks to DAN and the Lads at OURLADS and their super accurate, and free, roster detail @ ourlads.com, here are some numbers that stick out to me in gazing at the numbers until my old eyes see double. The numbers are based on rosters printed up Sept. 8th & 9th, so some changes have probably occurred already.
1) This is the season that CHIP KELLY is remolding the team roster in his vision of all things NFL, given his now absolute power within the EAGLES organization. It’s only year one, so I will hold off on making any rash projections. But first indications are that the NFL Draft is not the be-all & end-all to CHIP that it is to my heroes like TED THOMPSON. The EAGLES have a League low 4 Rookies on their 53-man roster. They might have had 5 if CB/JACOREY SHEPHERD were not already on IR for the year.
2) The RAMS continue to make their push to be one of the youngest teams in the NFL. They hit the opener with 10 Rookies on their active roster. And it does not take much imagination to figure out which unit JEFF FISHER and his staff are trying hardest to retool. 5 of their 10 Rookies play along the OL and 2 are likely to start. Another 2 projected OL starters were from last year’s Draft. Under the heading of Youth Will Be Served 7 of their initial 10 practice Squad are Rookies. And 1 of those 10 is also a Rookie OT.
3) Only 6 of 32 NFL teams have double digit Rookie counts. The SAINTS lead the League with 12 roster Rookies. They have 2 more on Reserve Lists and 3 on their Practice Squad. The BEARS, COLTS, RAMS & 49’ers all are tied for second most with 10 each. 7-9 Rookies per squad seems to be the median range this year.
4) The COLTS may have the most paradoxical roster configuration of any NFL team. After a rash of VFA signings this past off-season the team now has 12 players 30 or older, balanced of course by the 10 roster Rookies. It should also be noted that for a Super Bowl favorite (by many) they have a fairly high number of new players with 19 out of 53 on the current roster. As I have stated on numerous occasions in the past 5 months GRIGSON & PAGANO look to be “all-in” for 2015.
5) Win today with vets, ala GEORGE ALLEN, seems to be the current mantra of GIANTS HC TOM COUGHLIN. COUGHLIN, who seems to be obsessed with keeping his job at all costs these days, has a heavily veteran roster right now with 11 players 30 or older. He also has only 5 active Rookies, with 2 more on Reserve lists with injuries. He also seems to be having some difficulty finding players to fill his roster. As of Tuesday he had only 51 players on his 53-man roster. The GIANTS were the only team to not have the full compliment of 53 at that time.
6) The BILLS also had only 5 Rookies of their roster as the season started. It really comes as no surprise because they only had 6 Picks in the last Draft and REX sees them as a Play-Off contender in 2015. Also, when in doubt, REX prefers vets so the low number is not a shock. For those who cry cronyism it should be noted only 2 ex-JETS are on his active roster. By the end of Sept. there will be 10 players 30 or older. But 6 of those were already on the roster when REX took over.
7) Wisely, IMO, DA BEARS are reshaping their roster primarily with youth. As mentioned earlier the team kept 10 Rookies. Interesting to me, was the fact that 5 of those Rookies were URFA, not Draftees. And of those 5, 2 came from other teams cut-downs. From watching them in pre-season I felt that Chicago would be well served to keep some of these young relative unknowns who played quite well. Also of note, DA BEARS lead the NFL with 24 players new to the Windy City. Congrats to JOHN FOX and GM RYAN PACE for getting on the same page and acknowledging that the team needed some major talent rework.
8) The PACKERS are the Champions of “growing your own” players once again. Of their 53-man roster a whopping 45 players originally came into the NFL as PACKERS. The BENGALS and RAMS are nipping at their heels however, with 42 each. The VIKINGS have 40 “home grown” players. The PACK will also be in the running for youngest team in the League as usual. Only 6 PACKERS are 30 or older. And although only 9 Rookies made the PACKERS roster, 7 more are on the Reserve lists or Practice Squad.
9) I’m always curious to see how many First Round Draft Picks dot NFL rosters. Four teams led the way on that account with 11 each: VIKINGS, STEELERS, RAMS, CARDINALS. It is important to note that not all these first rounders are still with their drafting teams. I counted 265 First Round Draftees scattered around the League on rosters. For you math challenged that’s a bit over 8 per team on average. The JAGUARS, REDSKINS & BEARS bring up the rear with only 5 Round 1 Draft selections on their team. Gee, funny how none of these 3 is considered to be a Play-Off contender this season. Talent, like size, does matter.
10) Finally let’s take a look at overall roster personnel turnover. Which teams really shook it up and which ones pretty much stood pat. Four teams tied for fewest new roster members with 12 out of 53. They were PACKERS, COWBOYS, SEA HAWKS, PANTHERS. Please bear in mind that players listed on a team’s Practice Squad at the end of last season count as returnees to me. All 4 of these teams won their divisions last year and are projected as serious contenders again this year. At the other end of the spectrum these teams have the greatest number of new roster members for 2015: DA BEARS,24; SAINTS,22; RAIDERS,21; JETS,2O; BUCS,20. And what do these 5 teams have in common? That’s right, none of them made the Play-Offs in 2014. Whether or not the correct deletions and additions were made these 5 teams clearly realized that more of the same was not going to change their status as losers. As a side note the Super Bowl winning PATRIOTS have 19 new players on their roster, which is a tad high for a defending Super Bowl Champion. Then again BILL BELICHICK usually leads the league in discretionary roster moves even during the season.
That’s all folks! There are many more points of interest that can be pointed out when roster browsing, but I felt these 10 were the most interesting and/or curious. And here’s hoping TOM COUGHLIN can find a 53rd player to help his team before Sunday.