One of the tenants behind the Patriots' sustained success under Bill Belichick has been a mix of young talent and veteran experience throughout the roster. When Tom Brady was a young, developing quarterback in the league, veterans such as Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Ty Law and others were around to serve in leadership roles.
Brady now lays claim to the elder statesman title on the Patriots roster, and it is he who serves as the team's leader while youngsters such as Rob Gronkowski, Dont'a Hightower, Stevan Ridley and Chandler Jones develop in the early stages of their own careers.
But while the Patriots' projected starting lineup for 2013 is laced with young cornerstones on either side of the ball, it has a veteran feel. Mike Sando, who runs the NFC West blog for ESPN.com, points out that the Patriots' projected starters are the sixth oldest among NFL teams.
More specifically, Sando calculated that the Patriots' offensive starters make for the seventh oldest group, while the defensive starters make for the ninth oldest group on their side of the ball.
It's important to note, as Sando does, that these rankings can change as starting lineups become clearer closer to the start of the regular season. If, for example, either Michael Jenkins or Adrian Wilson (who some project as starters) were to be reserves, the Patriots' rankings may drop, particularly if Aaron Dobson and Tavon Wilson were their replacements.
For the most part, however, we have a sufficient feel on which players will start for the Patriots in 2013, and while the overall average age of the starters ranks near the top of the league, it's safe to say that the Patriots have a strong young core in place for the future. Beyond the aforementioned young players, there are several others such as Nate Solder, Shane Vereen, Marcus Cannon, Jamie Collins, Alfonzo Dennard and Armond Armstead who could be fixtures in the lineup for years to come.
The development of those younger players (among others) will be worth monitoring as the offseason progresses and the regular season draws closer.