One of the priorities for the New York Jets this off-season was bolstering their offensive line, as they went out and utilized draft capital and free-agent money to upgrade the unit. They brought in Dan Feeney, who’s started 57 games in four seasons of play, and has experience at LG and C, and drafted Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC to fill an interior position.
Vera-Tucker has experience playing at OT and OG, providing the Jets with versatility they didn’t have before on the OL. Having failed to make a significant splash in free agency, they walked away with one of the best drafts in the NFL, as the USC product was considered a top 10 player in the entire class. Considering they traded up to pick 14 to ensure they snagged the versatile offensive lineman, it gives you an idea of how much they valued his services.
Verta-Tucker’s former head coach, Clay Helton, had great reviews of the offensive lineman, generously comparing him to All-Pro OG Quenton Nelson in some ways:
“He played three years for us at an elite level and really didn’t give up a sack his junior year (at LG) in that entire year,” Helton said. “He has tremendous athleticism in all your run schemes. He’s a guy who can get out in space, can run outside zone, power on inside zone and be able to really get out in space on the second level and be able to connect with defenders and be able to lock on them and show those great feet that he has. You’re really getting a talented a player that I think can really fit into what the Jets want to do.”
When you have a player being compared to Quenton Nelson, your eyes must widen. With a combination of athleticism and technique, Tucker is ready to make an impact on day one. In addition, he has the flexibility to help supplement injuries, which could end up being an undervalued factor. Considering Mekhi Becton has been dealing with planters fasciitis and other issues, there is the potential that Alijah could end up starting some games on the outside, which he has significant experience doing.
However, the Jets envision him filling the left guard spot next to Becton, solidifying a duo for years to come that can protect their rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson.
At this point in time, the Jets have made significant changes across the board, but their offense has experienced a shift that not many other teams have experienced around the league. They have the personnel to take a dramatic step forward and 2021 — it all depends on the scheme/coaching moving forward.