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Centers of Attention: Mangold, Dozier, Johnson

If Nick (Neck) Can't Go vs. Oakland, Bowles Will Turn to One of His 2 Second-Year Men to Fill the Void

Who will be in the center of things for the Jets' offensive line at Oakland on Sunday? After today's practice, it really isn't clear.

Nick Mangold wasn't ready to commit to making one of his remarkable rebounds after sitting out practice to get rehab on his sore neck for the second straight day.

"I think I've done that before, gone through a week without practicing and then played in the game," Mangold said at his Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker. "So it just depends on how things respond and seeing how I feel."

Mangold has missed precious little time to injury in his 10-year NFL career. There were two games from a sprained ankle in 2011, an ankle that kept him out of last year's finale at Miami, one play against Cleveland in this year's opener.

Sunday, he missed the final three plays when Patriots D-lineman Dominique Easley had him by the jersey collar and pulled him down, with the right side of his head slamming into right hip of leaping LB Jamie Collins being blocked toward him by Breno Giacomini. A perfect storm of sorts.

Mangold's aim is not to miss the Raiders, but he said today, "I feel things, and hopefully we're trying to fix those things. ... If things happen and I can't play, I'll deal with that at that time. Right now I plan on playing."

Head coach Todd Bowles also wasn't sure about Mangold, which left him looking closely at his two options to replace Nick on the roster — Dakota Dozier and Wes Johnson. Both are young and ready to roll if called on, and each has taken a little different road to center.

"Obviously, if Nick goes, it'd be great for the team," said Dozier, who came to the Jets as a tackle out of Furman in 2014 and has moved to guard and now center. "If not, I'm going to step in there and do the best I can. These guys trust me, we'll be able to communicate, be on the same page, and go out there and play some good ball."

Johnson has been listed as a tackle but he actually did play center at Vanderbilt as a sophomore. He's preparing to do so again.

"I've been splitting reps with Dakota," he said. "I got used to playing the position again in the preseason. I was at center for at least half of my offensive reps."

Bowles said Johnson's longer experience at C doesn't give him the edge.

"Dakota's taken a lot of reps, too. Johnson is a more natural center, he's been playing it. Dakota's got a lot of reps in this summer and this fall," the coach said. "So it'll be an either-or evaluation. As we look at the film, we'll make that decision, who is making the better calls and who is a little more ahead in the game plan."

We'll go out on a limb here and say that if Nick needs time to rest his nicked neck, the coaching staff's solution — Dozier, Johnson, or even a rotation — won't be Mangold but it will get the job done.

"We don't have a choice," said Johnson. "And we're getting put between four pretty bad dudes."

Meaning four pretty good dudes, of course — D'Brickashaw Ferguson, James Carpenter, Willie Colon and Breno Giacomini.

And as Dozier reminded, it may not come down to that:

"Exactly. It's worry-worry-worry, then Nick says, 'OK, I'm good.' "

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