New York Post

The ’gold standard

Only when center sits do Jets see true value

- Mark Cannizzaro

BECAUSE of the position he plays and its anonymous nature, it is difficult to properly quantify Nick Mangold’s importance to the Jets. We take Mangold for granted, because most centers in the NFL are taken for granted. And because Mangold has been such a mainstay in the Jets’ lineup the assumption always is he’ll be playing on game day.

That’s what starting 152 of the 154 games in which he has been eligible to play since he was drafted in the first round in 2006 will do.

Mangold does not score touchdowns. He does not sack quarterbac­ks, force fumbles or kick field goals. Yet he is the most indispensa­ble player on the Jets.

That has come more into focus of late with Mangold missing a game for only the second time in his NFL career — in Week 8, against the Raiders — after he suffered what appeared to be a scary neck injury against the Redskins.

Fortunatel­y, he missed only the Oakland game, a miserable 3420 blowout loss in which the Jets, who were the top rushing offense in the league entering the week, rushed for just 74 yard on 21 carries.

Mangold, too, was knocked out of last week’s loss to the Texans in Houston, where he suffered laceration­s on his right hand in the second quarter, requiring seven stitches.

The Jets are optimistic about his availabili­ty for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, but there are no guarantees.

Much of that depends on his pain threshold.

“Just as long as I can hold onto the ball,’’ Mangold said.

Count on him playing, which is the best news the Jets will have heard this week, because they need him, perhaps more than they need quarterbac­k Ryan Fitzpatric­k to be healthy.

“He’s like the quarterbac­k; he knows everything about the offense,’’ left guard James Carpenter said. “He gets us all in the right place in the blocking schemes. Plus, he’s really tough. Ten years in the league and he’s still flying around like this is his fifth.’’

Coach Todd Bowles called Mangold “very bright, very tough, a mainstay,’’ adding, “Guys rely on him for every thing, whether it’s the calls, whether it’s blocking schemes, whether it’s enthusiasm. He’s the same guy every day. So, when that guy is not playing, from an enthusiasm standpoint, you try not to take a dip too far.’’

Of course, you cannot pin the Jets’ recent woes only on the center position and Mangold being hurt — there are a number of factors that have contribute­d to the slide that has put the Jets’ playoff chances in peril. But facts are facts: The Jets were 41 coming out of that win over the Redskins when Mangold got hurt, and they are 14 since.

“The most important qualities for a center — and the three that I think he excels at — are intelligen­ce, experience and he’s always evenkeel, always the same guy,’’ Fitzpatric­k said. “There’s no panic. He’s actually a calming presence in the huddle and on the field.’’

Fitzpatric­k said when he first joined the Jets via a trade from Houston, he knew immediatel­y there would be a special synergy between him and Mangold. There was almost an instant telepathy.

“We got on the same page pretty quickly,’’ Fitzpatric­k said. “We kind of see the game the same way. There’s constant communicat­ion between us. He’s kind of my translator.

“I can come to him with new terminolog­y I want to use at the line of scrimmage and he’ll know right away whether it’ll work, because he knows how those guys think up front. He’ll tell me, ‘No, that’s not going to work,’ or, ‘Yes, that will work,’ or, ‘That’s not going to make sense to them because they’ll be thinking about a different play if you say that word.’

“And, in a game, whether I’m in the middle of my cadence or whether the clock is winding down on third down, for him to be able to think as quickly as he does, to diagnose from the center position as quickly as he does, and to communicat­e that calmly to everybody … that’s why he’s so dynamic.’’ And so difficult to replace. “Well, I know I’m not going to replace him,’’ said Wesley Johnson, Mangold’s backup. “He’s a great player. What I’m going to do is listen to him and play the best game I can. He’s one of the rocks on the team. Coming in here, everyone knows who Nick is, and if they don’t, they learn real quick.’’

With the recent cracks in Mangold’s armor, the Jets have learned something they may not have already known: They have a difficult time functionin­g without him.

 ??  ?? SNAP TO IT: Jets center Nick Mangold is trying to play through a hand injury that required seven stitches.
SNAP TO IT: Jets center Nick Mangold is trying to play through a hand injury that required seven stitches.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States