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Wes Johnson: New Center of Attention

4th-Year Man Took Over for Injured Nick Mangold Last Year, Now Is in the Middle of the Offense


From the outside looking in, there are about three big reasons to expect success from Wes Johnson as he succeeds possible future Hall of Famer Nick Mangold as the Jets' center.

One is Johnson's demeanor. He's humble, hard-working, self-effacing and quietly confident. Even though he started eight of the last nine games for the injured Mangold last year, he's taking nothing for granted this offseason.

"I'm competing, we're all competing. You've got to earn the job," Johnson told me after the Jets' first OTA practice. "But yeah, I'm ready for the workload. I've done it and I've been looking forward to it."

And during an interview with my partner Eric Allen, the fourth-year pro expressed some ambivalence toward the study that his position requires. EA bantered, "You're a Vandy guy, though." That's Vanderbilt University, sometimes known as the Harvard of the South.

"Yeah, but I'm a football Vandy guy," he replied.

Top Photos of the Jets OL

The second factor we see is Johnson's immersion in and promotion of the all-for-one philosophy on the Jets' line.

"We have a good culture in our room and we want to keep that going, keep building on it," he said, adding in a reference to next-door neighbors James Carpenter and Brian Winters, "To do that, I have to be able to finish Carp's and Brian's and everybody else's sentences. We all get along, we don't have any guys that are problems or anything like that. We're all good and we're all here for the betterment of the team."

And the third reason for Johnson's promising future is the aforementioned Mangold, who was released earlier this offseason but whose influence will continue to be felt this year.

"Oh, it's weird," Johnson said. "He's such a legend in this building and for Jets Nation, he was such a mentor to me and all the young guys. ... But we've been here for about a month now trying to get used to it. Everybody else is kind of taking a little bit of ownership of the room. You can't replace him but you fill in that role that he played."

Johnson did that admirably last season. The comparisons with old No. 74, with each starting eight games, are favorable for the "new guy."

Plays — Mangold played 433 offensive plays with just a single special-teams play. Johnson was in for 657 offensive plays with 70 snaps on specials.

Yards Per Play — The Jets offense averaged 5.3 yards/play with Johnson starting and 5.2 with Mangold. In the running game, the Johnson-led blockers produced 4.7 yards/carry and six rush touchdowns while in Mangold's starts it was 3.9 yards/play and four TDs.

Minus Plays — Mangold's experience showed here. The Jets yielded a sack every 19 pass plays and a tackle for loss every 33 carries in the seven-time Pro Bowler's starts. For Johnson's OL, the occurrences were more frequent, a sack every 15 pass plays and a TFL every 21 carries.

Penalties — Mangold committed no penalties while causing one 10-yarder. Johnson had two false starts (one hold was declined) and forced two 5-yard penalties.

One experience Mangold didn't get in his storied Green & White career is to line up in a John Morton-coordinated offense. Johnson and company have just started doing that with the commencement of OTAs last week.

"It's coming in hot. Coach Morton's definitely brought in a lot of energy. He's got a lot of juice out there, he keeps us all fired up, and he talks about laser focus all the time," Johnson said. "He makes sure we're on it, and we'll be ready to go by training camp."

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