I am not one to panic easily. Heck, the day after 45-3 in Foxborough last year when the world seemed to be falling apart, I wrote this post talking about how the Jets had time to turn it around and beat the Patriots in the Playoffs. I would not say I am in panic about Nick Mangold's injury, but this has me more worried about any Jets injury since Chad Pennington's second rotator cuff tear in 2005.
Mangold is a unique player. He is the best in the league. You can bemoan Mike Tannenbaum not adding veteran interior line depth. Just remember the team had Robert Turner, who got hurt. Forget about three deep at center. A lot of teams cannot even go one deep at the position for quality play. Even if the Jets had Turner, or any other veteran it would be a huge dropoff even if not as huge as it is now. You cannot replace Mangold. He gave the Jets a center who could handle any interior defensive lineman in the league. That is an enormous edge. Heck, even when Darrelle Revis got hurt last year, the Jets at least had Antonio Cromartie. You can survive a top corner going out because it is possible to have a strong number two.
There is a bigger problem at play, though. The Jets offensive line was struggling with Mangold in there. Wayne Hunter comes to mind in particular. Leaks on the offensive line are a lot like the story of the boy in Holland plugging the dike with the hole. One is not too bad. More than one? You eventually cannot plug every problem. Brandon Moore could adjust and help Hunter more. Now with Mangold out, Moore has to spend a lot of time helping Colin Baxter because the best interior linemen require double teams. That means Hunter gets less attention, which is bad given his play.
Mark Sanchez was taking too many big hits with even the best center in the league starting. Now the Jets have replaced that center with an undrafted rookie. Yikes. It makes it more likely Sanchez takes a hit in the wrong spot and suffers a serious injury. Mark Brunell is the backup. That pretty much grounds the passing game. Yes, the Jets made the AFC Championship Game in 2009 with a subpar passing attack largely because of a defense still largely in tact, but remember this. The Jets had a top rushing attack that year and held the ball over 32:00 a game. That helped the defense a lot. It kept the unit fresh. That would be much tougher to duplicate. Why? You guessed it. The offensive line that helped the Jets do that is not the same. This team needs to rely on its passing game more, which leaves Sanchez vulnerable. It is a viscous cycle. Without Sanchez, a sputtering passing game and ineffective running game mean short drives. That means a more tired defense and extra possessions for an opponent to try and score, which will inevitably mean more points.
Get well soon, Nick.