Florham Park, N.J.– The question most commonly asked by reporters this week has been, “What’s the biggest difference between where this Jets team is now as opposed to where they were before the last game against the Patriots?” A simple question gets a simple answer, the play of the offensive line is easily the biggest difference. Of course that has a lot to do with the fact that Nick Mangold has got a few games under his belt since he returned from his high-ankle sprain.
“I think it (having Mangold playing) just gives the other guys a lot of confidence, too, up front.” Mark Sanchez said, “For me, of course, I feel great talking to Nick and we have such a good relationship on and off the field that when we’re playing games, it’s just that, we’re playing. We’re having fun.
“Talking to him at the line of scrimmage, it’s not the same as I used to be, where I was just terrified to ask, ‘Man, I really don’t know what’s going on. Nick, help.’ He’s just so good about, I’ll say something, ‘Okay, let’s direct it here.’ And he says, ‘Okay, you’ve got so-and-so, you know that.’ And I’m like, ‘I’m good, I got him.’ It’s more of a discussion, so I think the other guys see that how comfortable I am. And he’s so calm. Whether he are up by 40 or down by 40, he’s always just smiling and happy and having fun. He’s just a good leader on that offensive line. So, we all love having him back.”
Remember back before the season started when Rex Ryan declared this team would have, “no excuses?” Well it’s a credit to Ryan that he stuck by that mantra when Mangold went down and they were forced to start an undrafted rookie in his place, but yesterday he admitted he was tempted to play the excuse card.
“We never make excuses, but I wanted to. But he’s the best center in football.” Ryan said, “Kind of like the Darrelle Revis of corners, that’s what Nick Mangold is at center. So having him out, obviously, was a great loss to us. I also like the fact that Brandon Moore is back to being that dominant right guard. He had the hip surgery in the offseason, but I see that Brandon is playing like Brandon. Wayne Hunter is playing excellent. D’Brickashaw (Ferguson) and (Matt) Slauson. I love our group. That offensive line, if I’m going to hang my hat on something, it’s going to be that offensive line, how we play defense and special teams and so I feel good about where we’re at.”
Since Mangold has returned the entire unit has played significantly better, yes even Wayne Hunter. Moore, recovering from offseason hip surgery, took a little longer than the Jets had hoped, but it appears he has regained his form as a superior offensive lineman. Ferguson also had some early struggles, but these past few weeks he has been the typical rock on the line that the Jets have gotten used over the past few years. While it’s no secret that Hunter struggled mightily at the start of the season he has certainly played at a more than respectable level the past few games and surprisingly Matt Slauson has been the most consistently good lineman for the Jets this season. So much so that it feels like much longer than a year ago that people were asking if Slauson was the weak link on this line.
When Mangold was asked about Ryan’s comparison of him to Revis, it should come as no surprise that Mangold quickly tried to downplay such high praise. “Darrelle is in a league of his own.” Mangold said, “But it’s kind of Rex (to say that).”
Modesty aside Mangold is absolute that elite level of center and though Ryan should be commended for not making excuses, no one would have blamed him if he did. The proof is in the pudding as they say and the pudding shows that every player on that line plays better with Mangold in the middle, which in turn causes the backs behind them and receivers outside of them to play better as well.
This offensive line is just starting to hit it’s stride and this fact has instilled such a confidence in this entire team that they truly feel this is just the beginning.