Mangold prepares for the snap
Both New York Jets' left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold were named to the NFL All-Rookie team as selected by Pro Football Weekly and the Pro Football Writers of America. Ferguson, the fourth overall selection in last April's draft, and Mangold, also selected in the first round at #29 overall, started every game for the Jets during the 2006 season.
Ferguson, a 6'6", 312-pound Virginia product and Freeport, New York native, returned home to help protect the blind-side of Chad Pennington. Each week, Ferguson was challenged by another team's top pass rusher.
"I don't know if I could put a grade on the year, but I did learn a lot. I had the opportunity to play against a lot of the top defenders in the league," he said. "It built more confidence in myself, and I know the things I need to improve upon. I've gained experience and that's so valuable; I just hope I can use this for the betterment of the team next year."
Late in the season, Jets head coach Eric Mangini praised Ferguson for his development off the field.
"Brick has made real progress. One area where Brick has improved significantly is - he's always been very conscientious, but his attention to detail is improving. Not that it was bad, but I think it's getting better," he said of Ferguson.
Often throughout the season, Mangini would create pop quizzes for his players. Ferguson was up to the challenge, meeting his Coach's expectation level for preparation.
"It's getting to that thing we talked about, being a pro and your approach. A lot of times I'll start on Wednesdays. I let him (Ferguson) kick the day off with some questions," Mangini said. "Very rarely does he get things wrong. I'm pleased with that. That's all part of the maturing process for those guys."
Mangold, a 6'4", 300-pound former co-captain at Ohio State, anchored the line like a 10-year veteran. He did a nice job calling out the protections at the line of scrimmage and held up well against some huge nose tackles.
"As he sees something and is exposed to it, he does a nice job of being able adjust to it," Mangini said of Mangold. "He'll get better with that. He started a lot of games in college and high school. He has been the starter for a long time. That's where he is comfortable being."
Taking a humble approach from day one, Mangold soaked in all of the knowledge he could from the veterans along the line. Even Trey Teague, who signed last offseason to compete with Mangold but never took the field due to injury, helped with Mangold's transition process.
"Being in my position, I never feel like I know enough and I never feel comfortable where I'm at, which keeps me working," Mangold said. "Pete Kendall, Anthony Clement, Brandon Moore, and Trey Teague have done a great job of making me feel comfortable out there, but it still feels kind of weird."
Kendall, the veteran left guard stationed between the two talented rookies, has played center at various points during his career. The 33-year-old veteran was impressed with the cerebral Mangold.
"It didn't take me long to figure out that Nick was fairly well up the learning curve,' Kendall said. "Sometimes people come in and play center and it's more because their skill set is such that they're not really a tackle and maybe they're too athletic to be a guard or something like that. But mentally you can usually tell that they're a few years away from understanding schemes and concepts. But with Nick, physically he's a good center, but mentally he understands offensive football immensely."
Now with a year under their respective belts, both Ferguson and Mangold should only improve in year two. The Jets struck rich in the draft with two building blocks along the line, and their ongoing progress makes the future look even that much brighter.