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Jets' Dalton Freeman ready to step in for Nick Mangold

Sunday could be Dalton Freeman's first NFL start, and Rex Ryan's last coaching the JeGetty Images

It is a week of preparation just like any other for Jets backup center Dalton Freeman.

Yes, starting center Nick Mangold left Sunday's game with an ankle injury in the second quarter and it was Freeman who came in to fill-in admirably and finish out the game. And true, Mangold did not practice on Tuesday and received treatment, perhaps signaling a starting job this Sunday in the season finale at the Dolphins.

But despite this circumstantial evidence, Freeman is treating this like any other game, even if it means it could well be his first NFL start and the most snaps he's ever played in the league.

“Each and every week I've prepared as if I'm going to start the game. Obviously this week is a little different with Nick having the injury,” Freeman told Metro.

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“But all things considered, I'm just trying to get ready like I do every week. Nothing has really changed about my situation.”

Freeman is in his second year with the Jets, an undrafted rookie free agent who was on the practice squad last year.

He got all the first-team snaps on Tuesday in practice but he's used to some action with the unit in nearly every practice. Even when Mangold is healthy, the Jets still slot Freeman in with the first team offensive line for five or six snaps per practice, just to get him acclimated to playing alongside the veterans.

It is something that helps him in his development and gives a feeling of comfort for moments like on Sunday when he has to race off the sidelines and take over for an injured Mangold. Playing alongside veterans such as Willie Colon and D'Brickashaw Ferguson in practice means that Freeman is comfortable in this role. He knows what is being asked of him, he knows their tendencies and all he has to do is just come in and play.

Basically the formula he followed last Sunday.

“We're trying not to make it more than it is. We prepare every week. Not trying to do too much, preparing and getting ready. Not reinventing anything,” Freeman said.

“Not really any nerves. Again, Geno [Smith] did a great job on the field, we've got a veteran group up there. I just needed to come in and do my part.”

Beyond the first team reps in practice, he's gotten time on the field with special teams, appearing in all 15 games this season. In addition, he played guard against the Broncos when Willie Colon went down with an injury. So he isn't exactly a novice, even if Sunday would represent his first ever NFL start.

As far as he's concerned, there is no indication of whether Mangold will play this weekend or not.

“Not at this point, it will be interesting to see. He's a fast healer for sure.”

 
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