Nick Mangold: Jets Offensive MVP?

Can we safely declare that Nick Mangold is the Jets’ MVP, if not the MVP of the whole league?

Okay, maybe not. But apparently, it’s been All Pro center Nick Mangold who has been holding the offensive line together this season. While he was out during the preseason, the offensive line also struggled, but it wasn’t quite so obvious – playing the second-string teams more than half the game makes the Jets O-Line look better in the preseason.

[caption id="attachment_205" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Jets Center Nick Mangold lines up in front of quarterback Mark Sanchez. photo by David J. Phillip, the AP."][/caption]

But in the two games since Mangold went down with a high ankle sprain, the offensive line has completely come apart to the point where quarterback Mark Sanchez looks like a piñata back there, getting whacked time and time again.

Since the second half against the Raiders two weeks ago, the Jet offense has looked completely lost, and the offensive line has been nothing short of a full on disaster – particularly last game against Baltimore’s strong defense.  Sanchez was sacked twice and hit ten times.

There weren’t any kind things to say. Joe Namath ripped the Jets again this week, particularly the offense and the offensive line. What last week were whispers is now open conversation: it looks like he’s right. And if there wasn’t some truth to it, the Jets wouldn’t be in such a rush to say Namath’s opinion didn’t matter.

Rex Ryan reportedly ripped his team (read: the offense) in the locker room on Monday.

The Jets deserve to be ripped.

It’s hard to believe that the offensive line, which was such a strength the last two seasons, has completely collapsed this year. The Jets, who have had incredible team continuity the last few seasons, have undergone some changes on the offensive line.

Veterans like Damien Woody are no longer on the team, and their replacements and backups who were supposed to take their places, like Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse, have not lived up to expectations.

Another issue is that Brandon Moore, who missed the entire preseason, is only now getting done with what would be his preseason. While he’s performed pretty well, hopefully he’ll be in top shape now.

As part of a conscious effort to rebuild the offensive line, the Jets drafted offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Mangold in 2006. Mangold was considered one of the top centers in the draft that year. Replacing Kevin Mawae, Mangold had a such a good rookie season (allowing .5 sacks, committing only three penalties, and making all the line calls) that he crept into some rookie of the year talks. That's pretty uncommon for centers.

Since then, Mangold has only improved, and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, although this past year he didn't play due to injury.

Rookie center Colin Baxter hasn’t done a terrible job filling Mangold’s shoes, but last week there were two botched exchanges between him and Mark Sanchez, and protecting Sanchez has been a real problem. On replays, it’s clear that Baxter just doesn’t have the experience yet to make all the right decisions as the big guy up front. It’s not entirely his fault – filling Mangold’s shoes wouldn’t be easy under the best of circumstances. With everything else not doing so well, any rookie mistakes are being magnified.

The Jets and Mangold expect Mangold to play today against the Patriots. New England’s defense isn’t anywhere near as good as Baltimore’s, so this is a good place for Mangold to step back in and help the offensive line get its act together.

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