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Mangenius? Third season will prove coach's worth in N.Y.

By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY

Pope Benedict XVI selected the month-old daughter of New York Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens from among a large crowd for a papal blessing during an open-air Mass at Nationals Park in Washington last month.

Was it a serendipitous precursor to Kate Elizabeth Clemens' father receiving his own blessing from Jets coach Eric Mangini as the team's starter after winning a preseason battle with veteran Chad Pennington?

New York will take all the divine intervention it can get after following up a 2006 playoff season with a 4-12 dud that included two wins against the 1-15 Miami Dolphins.

It's been nearly 40 years since Joe Namath delivered on his Super Bowl III guarantee to beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, the only time the Jets have reached the Super Bowl.

Owner Woody Johnson tried to buy a change of fortune after last season's debacle with a $142 million spending spree on five new starters: left guard Alan Faneca, right tackle Damien Woody, fullback Tony Richardson and linebacker Calvin Pace (all free agents) and defensive lineman Kris Jenkins, who signed a lucrative extension after arriving in a trade with the Carolina Panthers.

Johnson invested $40 million over five years in Faneca, a seven-time Pro Bowler who brings the leadership, toughness and intelligence general manager Mike Tannenbaum and Mangini covet.

The former Steeler, who threw a key block in Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XL triumph, could be quite a blessing himself as the Jets attempt to emerge from the shadows of the Giants, the reigning Super Bowl champions.

Faneca, 31, is a sputtering offense's designated drive blocker who's expected to pilot the Jets out of their embarrassing rut.

"We look good on paper," Faneca says. "Right now, it's on our shoulders to go out there and make it mesh and do something special on Sundays and get that ring the Giants got last year.

"There's a commitment in the locker room to get things done and turn things around. Nobody wants to go through what they did last year."

Especially not tailback Thomas Jones, who came to New York a year ago after being dealt from the Chicago Bears, whom he helped reach the Super Bowl. Jones fought his way to 1,119 rushing yards behind a suspect line in 2007. "When I first arrived here, Thomas came up and gave me a hug," Faneca says with a laugh. "He's excited about getting some help and changing what happened last year."

By retrenching in the trenches, Tannenbaum and Mangini essentially conceded a miscalculation on veteran left guard Pete Kendall, who lobbied for a $1 million raise that management refused last summer. Kendall was shipped to the Washington Redskins before the season began, and the offense never recovered. Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold, the team's first-round 2006 building blocks, regressed without him.

"Those guys are great players," Faneca says of Ferguson and Mangold. "The best thing I can do is come in there and play the way I've been

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