Examining the Theory of 150 for AFC East Offensive Lines

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJune 19, 2012

Sometimes, an offensive line ages like a fine wine. Other times, it ages like milk.
Sometimes, an offensive line ages like a fine wine. Other times, it ages like milk.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Teams are always looking for the perfect balance of veteran talent and young blood on their roster, and the offensive line is no different.

ESPN analyst John Clayton has developed a theory on the age of an offensive line that he calls the "Theory of 150." 

Clayton explains, "If a team lets its starting offensive line exceed the total age of 150 years for five starters, the clock is ticking on its remaining success." 

Let's take a look at each offensive line in the AFC East to see where the groups have come over the past few years and where they stand headed into the 2012 season.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Center Dan Connolly #63 of the New England Patriots prepares to hike the ball against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

New England Patriots

The Patriots have defied the Theory of 150 for years with a unit that has been close to or above that number since 2008.

From this perspective, the Patriots have showed the value of a cohesive unit that doesn't see much turnover from one year to the next. That has allowed the offensive line to play as a unit and to get used to each other's tendencies.

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Losing left tackle Matt Light to retirement knocks 33 years off their totem pole, and spry 24-year-old Nate Solder springs into action. Whether he's ready for the responsibility will bear watching over the course of the offseason.

At center, the team brings back veteran Dan Koppen for another go-round, while his replacement from last year, Dan Connolly, also returns. Who wins the starting job at center will be another topic to watch, but if Connolly doesn't win at center, he could compete for one of the guard spots if Logan Mankins isn't ready for the season opener.

There's a lot of change on this line, but under the tutelage of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, something gives me the feeling it'll be fine. 

Interestingly, even as the team rotates in new pieces, it still doesn't gain a lot of ground in the final tally. The Pats' projected starters on the offensive line come in at a combined 147 years of age.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 04: Nick Mangold #74, Adrien Clarke #61 and D'Brickashaw Ferguson #60 of the New York Jets get ready on the line against the Washington Redskins during their game on November 4, 2007 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New
Al Bello/Getty Images

New York Jets

The Jets have stayed well under 150 over the past four years, only once exceeding 141 combined years of age in that span.

The top-end talent on the Jets roster isn't a concern (except Wayne Hunter); it's the depth. 

Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold are the two steadiest presences on the roster over the past four seasons, each having been part of the team since 2006. The Jets infused their talent with youth in the first round of the 2006 draft and have been reaping the rewards ever since.

But when they haven't hit the nail on the head, they've missed by a wide margin.

That includes the disappointing 2011 season from right tackle Wayne Hunter, who let up 11 sacks last season. At 31 years old, you'd think the team would be eager to find his replacement, but the Jets coaching staff and front office have repeatedly stated that he is Mr. Right Now at right tackle. Whether he's Mr. Right remains to be seen. 

Guglielmo on Wayne Hunter: "Until they ship him out of here or shoot me dead in my office, the guy's the starting RT." #Jets

— Dennis Waszak Jr. (@DWAZ73) May 16, 2012

At 31 years old, guard Brandon Moore is entering the final year of his contract in 2012. Whether he is brought back will depend on the development of the younger offensive linemen, namely Robert T. Griffin and Vlad Ducasse. If Ducasse's offseason has gone as swimmingly as Rex Ryan indicates, he could be a candidate for a starting job at some point.

Also keep an eye on Matt Slauson's contract situation, as 2012 is the final year of his deal as well.

For now, though, the Jets are expected to return the same group of starters as they fielded last year. That still puts them comfortably under 150 combined years of age.

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 09:Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills linens up behind Kraig Urbik #60,Eric Wood #70 and Andy Levitre #67  against the Philadelphia Eagles  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo woi
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Buffalo Bills

Talk about a youth movement.

The Bills have been plugging draft picks into their offensive line for the past few years, and the moves are starting to pay off with a solid unit that the team can build its offense around for years to come.

The only loss to their line from last season is left tackle Demetress Bell, who couldn't stay healthy long enough to make an impact. His 28-year-old legs will be replaced with a young body, no matter who takes his spot.

Reports via BuffaloBills.com indicate that Cordy Glenn has taken all of the first-team snaps at left tackle, which means Chris Hairston and Erik Pears will likely battle it out for the honors at right tackle.

Pears has started 47 games in his five-year career, playing both tackle spots in the process. He is the Bills' most experienced veteran at the ripe young age of 29 years old.

The Bills may be incredibly young, but their success hasn't suffered for it. In fact, the Bills boasted the fifth-best average in the league in rushing yards per attempt (4.9) and gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL (23).

Their youth carries over into the 2012 season, where their offensive line is projected to weigh in at 131 combined years of age.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12:  The Miami Dolphins offensive line against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins win the award for the AFC East's youngest offensive line over the past four seasons by a landslide.

Even though the Dolphins are installing a new zone blocking scheme on the offensive line, there will be some measure of consistency, but there will be some fresh faces, which will bode well for Miami relative to the Theory of 150. 

Left tackle Jake Long and center Mike Pouncey are locks at their positions for years to come and present a good mix of youth and talent to give the Dolphins hope for the future.

At 33 years old, right tackle Marc Colombo is gone from the roster and takes with him a season of struggles in which he gave up nine sacks. Second-round pick Jonathan Martin figures to replace him at right tackle, bringing a fresh set of legs to the position. We'll see what he brings to the table as the season progresses.

Richie Incognito will man the left guard spot, while Artis Hicks, Lydon Murtha and John Jerry battle it out for the spot at right guard. It's yet unclear who will be the starter there, but whoever it is will bring a bit of youth to the position, or at least more than one Vernon Carey (30 years old).

Right now, it looks like that job will go to Jerry, who has been running as the first-team right guard in practice, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

In keeping with the trends of the past four years, the Dolphins project to be next year's youngest offensive line in the AFC East.

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates.