- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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On the final day of minicamp last week, Rex Ryan talked about Nick Mangold and how "he's stepped up his leadership. Whether it's kind of being the elder statesman, him and (D'Brickashaw Ferguson), I see that more from Nick right now. He's really taken that."
The Pro Bowl center proved Ryan's point on Wednesday, giving a frank assessment of the quarterback competition in an interview with the New York Post. What Mangold said was hardly controversial -- he basically reiterated what Ryan himself said last week -- but it was good to see him take a public stance instead of giving his usual vanilla quotes. Maybe Mangold is trying to become more of a team spokesman. His affinity for Mark Sanchez, a close friend, undoubtedly was a factor.
"I haven't walked around with a pen and paper and taken a poll, but from the feeling I get, the locker room wants to win," Mangold told the newspaper. "Whoever gives us the best chance to do that, we want out there -- and at this point, Mark gives us that best chance."
Key words: At this point. It could change in training camp if rookie Geno Smith demonstrates a better grasp of the offense and shows he can make plays. He didn't do that in the offseason. It was apparent, even before minicamp, that Smith was lagging behind. If there comes a point where Smith gives them a better chance to win, you'll notice how quickly some players will change their tune.
Mangold's leadership will be invaluable in 2013. For the first time since 2008, when RT Damien Woody and LG Alan Faneca arrived, the Jets will be breaking in two new starters on the offensive line. There will be two new guards, putting Mangold in the middle of it.
"He’s going to have two new guards playing with him, so that certainly will be a challenge," Ryan said. "But you have two veterans with Willie Colon -- [I’ve] really been impressed with Willie, same thing with [Stephen] Peterman. We’re flipping all those guards, [Brian] Winters as well. I’m expecting big things from this young man."