Redskins' new look isn't younger NFL REPORT

September 08, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

When a group of popular veterans, including Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Charles Mann, Mark Rypien, Earnest Byner and Ricky Sanders, departed in the off-season, the perception was that the Washington Redskins were going to rebuild with a younger team this year.

The reality is that they got older.

According to an NFL survey of Week 1 rosters, the Redskins' average age is 27.4, compared with 26.5 last year.

They're still the oldest club in the NFC, and only one team in the AFC, the Los Angeles Raiders, who average 28.3, is older.

The Redskins also have the most over-30 players (16) in the league, although that's two fewer than last year.

The average age went up mainly because they signed a group of old free agents and they don't have a strong nucleus of three-, four-, or five-year players who are usually the heart of the team.

They have only six players from general manager Charley Casserly's first three drafts from 1990-1992.

They also brought in such veteran free agents as Henry Ellard (33), Leonard Marshall (32), Trevor Matich (32), John Gesek (31), Ethan Horton (31) and Martin Bayless (31).

Casserly, though, doesn't think average age is an important statistic.

"What you're trying to do is get better," he said. "When you win, you have experience. When you lose, you're old. The bottom line is that it doesn't mean anything. You've got to break it down by position."

He notes they have youth at quarterback and running back and two of their three receivers are young.

The Redskins have gotten an infusion of youth in their past two drafts.

Tom Carter, Reggie Brooks and Sterling Palmer, Darryl Morrison and Frank Wycheck could make the 1993 draft a memorable one, and although it's too early to judge this year's class, any draft that starts with quarterback Heath Shuler is likely to be a good one.

The team has a veteran group in the offensive line, but Casserly said, "What are you going to do, cut them and bring in some 22-year-olds?"

If the Redskins do improve, age won't be an issue. But after an opening 28-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, questions about age may be raised as the year goes on.

Meanwhile, coach Norv Turner is obviously eager to go with youth at quarterback. He made it official yesterday that John Friesz will start against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, but Shuler likely will play a quarter and start the next week against the New York Giants.

"I think it could be pretty likely, yeah, but I think we've got to see what happens Sunday," Turner said of the possibility of Shuler starting against the Giants.

Buddy ball

Buddy Ryan, the rambunctious coach of the Arizona Cardinals, hasn't toned down his comments just because his team lost its opener to the Los Angeles Rams.

He said yesterday in a conference call that the New York Giants -- the Cardinals' opponents on Sunday night -- are better off at quarterback with Dave Brown than Phil Simms.

"The Giants have the same offense they've had for years," Ryan said. "They've just upgraded themselves at the quarterback position. That's just my opinion."

What about Simms, who made the Pro Bowl last season?

"He was around a good football team that moved the football [on the ground]," Ryan said.

Simms, now an analyst for ESPN, declined to comment. Asked why Ryan might make those comments, he said, "Because he's Buddy."

Injury report

Los Angeles Raiders running back Napoleon McCallum was in good spirits and talked on the phone with coach Art Shell yesterday, a day after surgery to repair a ruptured artery and dislocated knee. "He said, 'Coach, I'm going to bounce back. I've been through tough times before,' " said Shell. . . . San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Harris Barton, a member of last season's Pro Bowl squad, is expected to miss four to six weeks with a partially torn left triceps muscle.

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