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Mangold says Sanchez's improvement has been gradual

Jets center Nick Mangold, left, says Mark Sanchez's

Jets center Nick Mangold, left, says Mark Sanchez's improvement has been gradual, like the "turning of a screw." Credit: David Pokress

Mark Sanchez is in a zone, playing his best ball of the season at just the right time. But the Jet who gives the rookie quarterback the ball, Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold, doesn't think his recent improvement can be traced to anything dramatic.

"It hasn't been the proverbial flipping of the switch," Mangold said yesterday. "It's been more a gradual turning of a screw.

"It's one of the things we've been trying to alert Mark to: Don't do anything more than just be the quarterback. Go out there and do your job and we'll try to make things perfect for you. We'll give you the protection, we'll pick things up.

"[We] try to alleviate one concern from his mind because I'm sure he's got about 50 other things he's got to worry about when he's back there. I think a big part of it was he came in loose. He had this little kid-like smile on his face."

Memories, memories

Jerricho Cotchery still can recall how loud the crowd was Jan. 8, 2005, when the Jets met the Chargers in a wild-card matchup. But there's something else the wide receiver quickly brought up when asked for his fondest recollection of the Jets' 20-17 thriller.

"The best thing that I can remember is the game-winning field goal in overtime," Cotchery said, referring to Doug Brien's 28-yard boot with five seconds left.

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