The results of Nick Mangold’s MRI are in, and it appears the New York Jets will miss their All-Pro center for a little while.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Mangold suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he will likely be held out at least two or three weeks.
Mangold has never missed a start in his six-year NFL career since being drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, but that streak will come to an end next Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.
All in all, the news isn’t the worst thing in the world. Mangold does not have any structural damage to his leg and it doesn’t appear to be a long-term concern. While he has a high tolerance for pain, the Jets want to play it safe with their star center.
With second-string center Robert Turner also on the shelf, the Jets will likely go ahead with undrafted rookie free agent Colin Baxter (pictured above, #64) as the starter.
Baxter, a University of Arizona product, was in camp with the San Diego Chargers this offseason before being claimed by the Jets off of waivers in September.
Baxter stepped in for Mangold in the first quarter of last Sunday’s game and played relatively well in his NFL debut. He did snap the ball early one time, which is part of the growing pains the Jets will have to work through as Baxter gets used to working with the first team offense.
“Baxter stepped in and did a nice job,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “It’s a similar system. We got him from San Diego so the terminology’s similar with (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) Schotty coming from San Diego.”
“It was kind of a natural fit for him. The young man stepped in and did a nice job. He snapped the ball a little early one time, but other than that, I thought he played well for us.”
It’s definitely a big concern for the Jets moving forward as they now will start two offensive linemen who have not exactly played outstanding football so far this season, in Baxter and right tackle Wayne Hunter.
The Jets had kept their starting offensive line relatively healthy the last three seasons, but now must find a way to keep quarterback Mark Sanchez clean in the pocket with a makeshift line.
There will be pressure on guards Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore to give Baxter some support in pass protection and run blocking, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Jets leave in extra blockers to help out Hunter as well.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, but the good teams find ways to win under duress. At 2-0, the Jets have managed to do that so far. But not every week will be a 32-3 cakewalk.
As the schedule gets tougher, the Jets will have to step up and play like the two-time conference runner-ups that they are. They cannot afford a setback just because one of there stars is out injured. Green Bay proved last season that champions can overcome anything.
If the Jets want to be champions, they will have to prove their worth on the field, no matter who they trot out there. Baxter has a chance now to make a name for himself. For his sake, and the Jets sake, I hope it’s in a positive light.
When you put on that New York Jets uniform, Rex Ryan expects you to “Play Like a Jet!” Jets fans have to cross their fingers and hope that Baxter will be up for the challenge.