With the New York Jets, as he enters his 10th season, center Nick Mangold hasn’t lost a beat. His leadership is unmatched but the Jets need to start grooming his eventual replacement now rather than later.
At 32-years-old, center Nick Mangold still ranks among the NFL’s best. A mainstay since 2006, he’s seen a turnstile of quarterbacks come and go – yet has gone the lengths to protect whomever was behind him. In 156 games played, he has started in all of them, and in that span, he’s had over 10 quarterback to shield. To be able to build chemistry with the handful of those who were starters says a lot about the former Ohio State Buckeye.
The anchor of the Jets’ offensive line, Mangold is the last remaining player from the 2006 NFL Draft. Offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson and he were drafted together in Round 1, but Ferguson announced his retirement unexpectedly on April 8th of this year. This came as a shock to Mangold, who went on to tell Eric Allen of NewYorkJets.com the following:
“When we first came in together, I always assumed Brick would outlast me. So when he texted me and we talked about it, it was just a shock. But I’m real happy for him because he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish and that’s all you can ask for.”
Still, with every departure comes a replacement, and Mangold will have former Denver Bronco Ryan Clady joining him. If the veteran can stay healthy, he should prove to be a solid, interim fix.
Clady aside, the offensive line will remain the same as last season. Left guard James Carpenter is coming off of his best year as a pro, while right guard Brian Winters and tackle Breno Giacomini continue to be liabilities. To note how important Mangold is to the line, his blocking increased and shifted to his right side whenever Winters saw playing time for an injured Willie Colon.
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Coming off of a season in which he did not allow a sack, Mangold must continue to be the core of an aging unit; keyword here being aging.
It’s rather clear the Jets have not done their due diligence at this point, having spent only 4th and 5th round draft picks on offensive linemen within the past three seasons.
On top of that, they have not drafted a single center since 2006.
This might be the most alarming and risky approach to assembling a team.
For arguments sake, it’s hard to blame them for not ‘wasting’ a roster spot when Mangold rarely misses time. But when they have inexperienced players such as Dakota Dozier and Wesley Johnson behind him, who mind you are not centers by trade, it’s concerning that they are prepared to give either of them playing time when a push comes to shove.
The Jets need to soon realize Mangold too will begin to think about life after football, and start preparing their draft boards. He is entering this season as the oldest projected starting center. Finding a replacement even remotely similar in skill-set and character will be tough, but drafting one sooner rather than later for him to learn under one of the franchises’ best ever would be a start.