The man in the middle of the Jets' O-line is ready for the upcoming road test against the New Orleans Saints, who, like the Jets, are undefeated.
"As a player that's all you can ask for is to go up against the best," C Nick Mangold told newyorkjets.com Wednesday. "They're 3-0. We know they're going to present a great challenge for us."
New York's AFC representatives will also be playing on the road for the first time in two weeks without the backing of the Meadowlands crowd that, according to numerous players, created an exceptional homefield advantage for the Patriots game and followed up with a great performance against the Titans.
"We've gotten kind of comfortable being at home with our fans," said Mangold. "It's going to make the task even more difficult going down there where you know it's going to be loud. The onus is going to be on us to make sure we're prepared for them."
The Saints return to the Superdome after winning consecutive road games in Philadelphia and Buffalo, and the 2009 version of "The Greatest Show on Turf" would love to give their crowd something to cheer about.
In their three victories, the Saints' potent offense has averaged an NFL-leading 438.0 yards and 40.0 points per game, good for an average victory margin of 21 points.
In light of their offensive effectiveness, one thing that has been overlooked is their defensive competency, which ranks 10th in total yards allowed.
"It's a fun defense to watch," said head coach Rex Ryan. "They really move around, and they are pretty aggressive. They blitz a lot."
While New Orleans typically plays a 4-3 front, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to switch things up as well.
"In a 4-3 you have to deal with guys jetting up the field and penetrating and having the center uncovered," said Mangold. "In a 3-4 you have to deal with two gaps, with guards being uncovered.
"It presents a different problem that you have to be prepared for and the Saints have shown both. It should be interesting to see what they come out with."
Former Jets first-round draft pick Jonathan Vilma, the anchor of the Saints defense after his 2008 trade, excelled in his first season back in the 4-3, racking up 132 tackles, fifth-most in the NFC last year. Unofficially this season, Vilma has 16 tackles, a sack and two PDs.
After watching video this week, Mangold, who played on the Jets with the linebacker in '06 and '07, sees similar tendencies that made Vilma a star on the defensive side of the ball.
"He's still the same player that he was here," he said. "Real fast, real instinctive guy that can make plays and can make a tackle anywhere. He appears to be doing pretty well down there."
To be effective and counter the LBs attack, the Jets will have to continue to develop their running game. Last week the Green & White played Tennessee's second-ranked run defense and ran for 83 yards on 31 carries. For the second week in a row they will face a team that's top five against the rush. The Saints are fifth overall this week.
The center leading the way is confident that the O-line will continue to work at developing holes for the talented backs.
"It's coming along," Mangold said. "It hasn't been where we want it to be but that gives us something to work on and I think we're making good progress."
The Jets are tied for 10th in the league with 130.0 rushing yards per game, although their 3.8 yards per carry is 22nd. Some are impatient with the rushing offense but Ryan isn't worried about the "lulls" that one reporter said the Jets offense has suffered through this season.
"The part I like most about our offense is there has always been a win at the end of it, too," said Ryan. "I will take a lull as long as we keep winning."