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40 of the Saints’ 43 players on offense are under age 30

It’s no secret that younger athletes have an edge on older ones. Fresh legs and untapped potential have a lot to offer. And the New Orleans Saints have often been criticized for fielding a roster that skews closer to the older side in recent years, relying hard on so many veteran players on the wrong side of 30.

So it’s worth taking note when these trends reverse themselves. Right now, after drafting seven rookies and signing 15 more undrafted free agents, the Saints have 43 players on offense, 40 on defense, with a few specialists rounding out their roster to 87 (of the 90 offseason roster spots they’re allotted). And of those 43 players on offense, 40 are under the age of 30.

The only exceptions are quarterbacks Derek Carr (33) and Taysom Hill (33), as well as right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (30), who may not play this year while dealing with a career-threatening knee injury. After three years of leaning hard on older players in playoffs-or-bust campaigns (which, you know, all busted) the Saints are finally getting younger.

It’s less notable defensively, but the trend continues there, too. Of the 40 defenders on the roster all but four are under 30: linebacker Demario Davis (35), defensive end Cameron Jordan (34), safety Tyrann Mathieu (31), and defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd (30). The problem is that those four players each led their position groups in snaps played last season, at least until Jordan’s ankle injury caused Carl Granderson to start playing ahead of him late in December.

Getting young draft picks active and involved like cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, linebacker Jaylan Ford, and defensive tackle Khristian Boyd would do so much to change the complexion of this Saints defense. If spry free agent pickups like defensive end Chase Young (25) and linebacker Willie Gay (26) are playing heavy minutes, even better.

We’re seeing the Saints change shape right before our eyes. This isn’t a team going for broke to trade up at every opportunity in the draft while cooking the books to add big names in free agency. There’s a self-awareness in Mickey Loomis’ front office that we haven’t seen before.

Will that lead to better results? Maybe, maybe not. Dennis Allen is still the head coach and Carr is still the quarterback. We probably shouldn’t make too much of the roster’s youthfulness in April when many of these rookies will be let go during roster cuts in September, rebalancing the scales. But if the Saints are going to find success and sustain it, doing a better job of drafting and developing young talent is the best way to get there.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire