FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Few offensive linemen can stand toe-to-toe with Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, but Jets center Nick Mangold is one of them. Mangold, three-times an All-Pro, is, in the estimation of Wilfork, the best center in all of football.
"He's probably the best. He's probably the best center, I believe," Wilfork said on Thursday. "I've been saying this ever since the guy's been a rookie. He's been pretty steady for them. And it hasn't changed."
Beyond his role as a road-grader and pass protector for quarterback Mark Sanchez, Mangold is also heavily involved with many other facets of the offense, including protection calls.
"Everything it seems like goes through him: the run game, he calls the plays on the line slides, he's the guy in charge," Wilfork noted of Mangold. "That's how it should be, because that's their bread and butter. When they need a play, if they're running the ball, it always seems to end up behind 74 [Mangold's number]. He's a big-time player for them, I give him all the respect in the world facing him numerous times."
Wilfork says that Mangold is the kind of player anyone would want on their team.
"He's one the players that you wish you could have a guy like that, 11 guys like that on the field with you at all times because he just means so much to that team," he said.
Mangold is currently battling an ankle injury that kept him out of practice of Wednesday. Though Wilfork says he wouldn't mind it if Mangold sits out on Sunday when the two teams square off, he's fully expecting the All-Pro lineman to be on the field.
"Trust me, I don't mind," Wilfork continued. "I think everybody will be pretty healthy for this game. You don't want to miss these types of games. If I was on the same side or on the opposite side of this man, I would want to play. Division game, for the lead in the division, there's a lot riding on this game on both sides. If you're healthy enough to play, you have to expect everyone.
"That's one of the guys, I'm sure he'll be ready to go, no matter what is being said or what his injury may be," he said. "Trust me, I'm pretty sure he'll be there."