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Wes Johnson Gears Up for His Hometown Team

Center Who Grew Up in Nashville & Jets Mates Take On the Tennessee Titans in Preseason Opener


You might think an NFL player who was born and raised in Nashville and played his college ball at Vanderbilt might be fired up, just a little, that his first preseason game this year comes against the team from his hometown.

But Wes Johnson calls Florham Park and East Rutherford his hometowns now.

"Those guys," the Jets center said with a smile about the Tennessee Titans, the Jets' Saturday opponents, as he sampled one of the training staff's orange cream protein shakes after today's practice. "Yeah, it's cool. But no, it doesn't really mean anything extra to me. I'm a Jet, proud to be a Jet."

Besides, Johnson is more focused on his tasks at hand, which are competing for the center job this year with Jonotthan Harrison and helping the Green & White be the best they can be once they head to Buffalo for the opener that counts on Sept. 10.

"It's going well," Johnson said. "The competition's tight, but we're all out there battling."

Johnson did well starting eight of the last nine games for the injured Nick Mangold last season. This offseason the Jets brought in Harrison, who played in 44 of the Colts' past 48 regular-season games, starting 23 — 19 starts coming at center in 2014-15, four at LG last season.

As head coach Todd Bowles said Thursday about the center spot, "It's up for grabs."

Johnson got ready for the battle before reporting for training camp by working on his size and speed.

"I put a little more focus on football technique work, and I got bigger and faster," he said. "Yeah, I am bigger, about 310 right now, which is a bit heftier than I've been in the past."

Johnson likes being a member of this transitional offensive line, which parted ways with Mangold and Breno Giacomini but added veterans Kelvin Beachum and Harrison.

"I think we're great," he said of his unit. "I love it. I couldn't imagine being anywhere else. The group works very well together, and we all play hard."

As for those three quarterbacks lining up behind him, who does he like there? Well, Johnson, being a fourth-year veteran from Vandy, knows not to go around publicly picking his favorite QB candidate. But he did have positive takes on Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty after the Jets had their last big practice before the opener.

"They've all done a great job. I've been really proud of all of 'em," he said. "Josh brings the juice every single day. And Hack and Bryce aren't walking on eggshells. They're very comfortable in the offense, in the system, and they're not afraid to make mistakes. I've been really proud of those two for that."

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