Jets: Alijah Vera-Tucker has ‘Quenton Nelson’ like versatility

alijah vera-tucker, jets

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.

The New York Jets still have time to bolster the secondary with one solid veteran

richard sherman, jets

The New York Jets seemingly had a fantastic draft and free agency class, but there is one unit they didn’t bolster sufficiently this off-season. Last year, one of the weaker points on defense for Gang Green was the secondary, and after the departure of Jamal Adams, the unit only got worse. The Jets ranked 28th in passing yards allowed per game, giving up 275.6 on average. They desperately need more support at cornerback after cutting Pierre Desir after just one season with the team.

However, there is one free agent on the market that could make perfect sense for the Jets, especially with the hiring of Robert Salah from the San Francisco 49ers.

Currently, on the roster, the Jets have a plethora of inexperienced options which don’t represent immediate starters or impact players.

-Bless Austin

-Bryce Hall

-Justin Hardee

-Isaiah Dunn

-Corey Ballentine

Only one of these players has played more than two seasons in the NFL and an entire 16 game campaign. Justin Hardee, who the Jets signed as a free agent from the New Orleans Saints, has never started a game in the NFL but has played in 56 over four seasons. He has two passes defended to his name, so expecting him to be a starting-level player would be optimistic.

The player on the market who could make the most sense for Gang Green is Richard Sherman, who is coming off a three-year, $27.15 million deal. At 33 years old, there’s no question that Sherman is getting up there in age, but as an intelligent corner who is one of the best defensive backs in the last decade, he could offer them plenty of value as a veteran in the locker room.

Sherman recently played for Salah and his defense, featuring in just five games last year, but did partake in 15 regular-season games and three playoff contests in 2019. During his 2019 season, he recorded a 90.5 overall coverage grade, allowing 373 yards and one touchdown the entire season. As a historically lock-down man coverage corner, Sherman clearly has a bit of gas left in his tank, but after missing the majority of the 2020 campaign, the Jets might be able to snag him up on a cheaper deal.

Considering the connection between Sherman and Salah, this would be an easy signing to make for the Jets, inserting an immediate starter into the secondary who can help the young players gain their sea legs in the NFL.

Signing Sherman to a one or two-year deal in the $7 million range would make sense, given the lesser contracts signed this off-season. The Jets currently have about $32 million available and cap space, giving them plenty of money to work with prior to the start of the 2021 season.

Jets, Morgan Moses nearing potential multi-year deal

morgan moses, new york jets

The New York Jets have made strides in upgrading their offensive line for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, and another may be on the way. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Jets are considered the favorites to land free agent OT Morgan Moses and are making progress on a potential multi-year deal.

The addition of the former Washington lineman would be a massive one upfront. The seventh-year player has started every game since 2015 and would add sustainability and security to the line.

Moses is the best available offensive tackle, by far, and would take over the other tackle spot opposite the young star, Mekhi Becton. He has experience on both sides of the line, but is more suited for the right tackle spot. That works perfectly, as Becton is comfortable on the left.

Coming off a season in which he ranked 18th among tackles with a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.9, Moses would be a gem to add this late in the offseason. So, the seemingly aggressive push to sign him makes sense.

A deal has not yet been agreed upon or confirmed, but it appears as though the Jets will land the free agent. If a deal is finalized in the coming hours or days, the Jets’ offensive line will have taken a major step forward.

Do the New York Jets have an underrated wide receiver core?

new york jets, jamison crowder

The New York Jets are headed into the 2021 season with an overturned roster, specifically at quarterback and wide receiver. Of course, expectations for second overall pick Zach Wilson are sky-high, as they should be based on his incredible attributes and capabilities on the run as a passer. Coming out of BYU, Wilson has the ability to throw on the move, deliver accurate passes downfield, and operate an offense adequately.

While the NFL presents an entirely different challenge, the Jets made sure to give Wilson plenty of weapons and resources for his rookie season. They went out and grabbed Corey Davis from the Tennessee Titans, who is considered a high-end WR2, if not a fringe WR1.

Compared to the wide receivers the Jets offered Sam Darnold last year, this is an entirely different group with far more capabilities. They traded away Sam’s best target in Robby Anderson, leaving him to fend for himself.

Nonetheless, the Jets have an underrated WR core this upcoming season, especially after drafting Ole Miss stand-out Elijah Moore.

New York Jets wide receiver core:

WR1: Corey Davis

Davis is an adequate player who signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal with the Jets, including $27 million guaranteed. While they spent big money on the receiver, he will offer Wilson a solid route runner who could also act as a possession option. The former first-round pick is only 26 years old and posted a career-high 984 yards and five touchdowns last year as a complement to AJ Brown.

While it is yet to be seen if Davis can handle the load himself, he was one of the most exciting college receivers coming out of the 2017 NFL draft, so there’s no question he can offer elite-level play, it’s just a matter of how consistency. Aside from posting career numbers in production, he also landed a 70.7% catch rate, showcasing quality hands and consistency, the key for Davis moving forward.

Giving Wilson an adequate receiver like Davis should do wonders for him and his adaptation to the NFL.

WR2: Jamison Crowder

The Jets recently struck a deal with Jamison Crowder to stick with the Jets on a more team-friendly deal. The renegotiated contract will keep him on the team for the 2021 campaign, but he will be a free agent after the season at 28 years old, offering him an opportunity to cash in one last time. Crowder is currently on a three-year, $28.5 million deal with the Jets, but after the team drafted Moore, he simply doesn’t have an extended future with Gang Green.

Crowder is a solid slot receiver who uses his shifty style of play to make tacklers miss in the open field. Last season, he posted 699 yards and six scores over 12 games. Crowder has dealt with injuries at times, but when on the field, he can be an asset, especially for Wilson, who’ll be looking for a security blanket out of the slot if the offensive line struggles.

WR3: Denzel Mims

One player, the Jets, have high hopes for is Denzel Mims, who played in just nine games during his rookie season in 2020. He picked up 357 yards but failed to find the end-zone. He showed solid route running as a rookie out of Baylor.

As a 6’3”, 207-pound receiver, he can be a solid complement to Corey Davis on the outside. Ultimately, if Mims can step up and realize his potential, the Jets will have a solid duo of outside receivers, drawing attention to the deeper portions of the field and allowing the slot options like Moore and Crowder to operate with more space.

WR4: Elijah Moore

Moore is an extremely exciting receiver out of Mississippi, who posted 1193 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Moore was considered one of the most lethal after the catch receivers in college football, and he surprisingly fell to the second round for the Jets, an absolute steal.

The young receiver has already been showing flashes of excellence during practice, and I have a feeling that the connection between Moore and Wilson will be elite for the future. As a shifty player who can change direction on a dime, Moore also contains elite speed and can take a ball to the house at any moment. Add in solid hands, and the 5’9″, 178-pound slot option could end up being one of the best players on offense, which would really indicate a homerun draft for management.

Honorable mention – WR5-7: Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith

Do you think the Jets have an underrated wide receiver core? Comment below! 

Are the New York Jets playing a risky game at quarterback?

new york jets, zach wilson

There is no doubt that the New York Jets will roll into the 2021 season with Zach Wilson as their primary starter, but behind him, they have a dearth of inexperience and talent.

Ultimately, the Jets had Joe Flacco behind Sam Darnold last year to help supplement injuries, and while their offense struggled considerably no matter the quarterback, new head coach Robert Salah believes that they are just fine at the position.

The New York Jets don’t have any qualified QBs on the roster:

Currently, the team has two quarterbacks on the roster that have never played a regular-season NFL game: Mike White and James Morgan. White is a former fifth-round pick in 2018, and Morgan was drafted last year in the fourth round.

One could make the argument that the Jets are taking a risky approach without any veteran experience on the team to help Wilson adjust and adapt, kind of like what Josh McCown did for Darnold. Of course, if the front office had actually provided Sam with a decent offensive line and weapons to utilize, this current Jets team could look a lot different.

“To just think that just because they’re a veteran it’s going to help a quarterback, there’s a match that has to happen, there’s a scheme familiarity that has to happen,” Saleh said. “If you just bring in a veteran who doesn’t know your scheme, he’s learning just like the rookie is. Aside from helping him with rehab and [regeneration] and study habits, which I think Zach and that entire quarterback room is already ahead of the curve on how they handle their bodies and study, I don’t know if there’s much value aside from being comfortable that if the crap hits the fan you have a veteran who has played football. It’s more of a comforting feeling rather than working your ass off to develop the quarterbacks who are already in the building.”

I agree with Salah to a degree, as Wilson will be the immediate starter whether or not the team has an experienced veteran on the roster. However, I believe he could’ve benefited from having a mentor behind him.

It is clear that the Jets are looking to develop their backups to fit their scheme, but they must be thinking about Wilson and his progression first and foremost. Salah did mention that the team could add another quarterback for training camp, depending on how the three quarterbacks looked this spring. Wilson has had his ups and downs during practice, but that was to be expected as he adjusts to NFL practices and intensity.

Retaining Jamison Crowder was vital for Jets’ future

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

The New York Jets‘ receiving group has been completely revamped, leaving Jamison Crowder as the odd man out. As a result, the 28-year-old receiver was asked to take a 50% pay cut for this upcoming season.

Crowder agreed to the pay cut, preventing a release.

Through poor coaching, inconsistent quarterback play and horrid offensive numbers, there has been one somewhat pleasant sight. That sight is Jamison Crowder. He has been the one offensive player that did what was expected of him each game, for the most part.

Playing mostly out of the slot, that’s where he does most of his damage. Across the last two seasons, he has 91 receptions for 1,094 yards on plays from the slot position alone. Those rank seventh and eighth, respectively, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Keep in mind, Crowder missed four games last season with a soft-tissue injury.

Those numbers are obviously not elite compared to the rest of the league. However, with the inconsistency around him, he was productive. Now, he won’t be the number-one option this season and he may not even be the third. Regardless, keeping him around is vital for the future along with the upcoming season.

With Crowder likely playing behind newly acquired Corey Davis, Denzel Mims and rookie Elijah Moore this season, his impact off the field could prove even greater.

He’s a proven veteran who could drastically improve Elijah Moore’s transition and development as a rookie in the NFL. Not only are both players primarily slot receivers, but they are also built nearly the same way. Crowder is 5’9″, 177 pounds and Moore is 5’10”, 178 pounds.

Moore could learn a lot from a player who has found success doing what he hopes to do at the next level. In fact, he has already been turning heads at Jets camp and it’s hard to believe Crowder has nothing to do with it. The rookie out of Ole Miss is obviously talented himself, but there’s a good chance he has applied some things he’s learned from the vet already.

Moore may be faster, more explosive a little more talented than Jamison Crowder, but the things he can teach can prove invaluable for the rookie’s potential future success.

Now, Crowder will obviously have an impact on the field as well, it just may be lessened. Regardless, his presence could play a vital role in Zach Wilson’s development as well. Every quarterback, young or old, needs someone to rely on in big situations.

This could be a stretch, but I’ll go ahead and say it. Crowder could end up having a role this season as Jason Witten had with Tony Romo on third downs. It seemed like every third and four or five, Romo would find Witten in the middle of the field for a first down. Crowder could be the guy who, even if his numbers aren’t eye-popping, has one of the biggest impacts on the field.

Crowder is a reliable pass-catcher that Zach Wilson could look to for big, quick catches to keep drives alive. I think he could actually thrive in that role this upcoming season and, obviously, offer more when needed.

Having a guy like that early in Wilson’s career is crucial to his development, especially when the other receiving options aren’t necessarily as proven as Crowder is. In regards to the projected top-three receivers, Corey Davis has been inconsistent throughout his career, Denzel Mims is in his second year and Elijah Moore is a rookie. They all bring, perhaps, more excitement than Jamison Crowder but he brings the verified reliability.

That reliability makes him valuable on the field and boosting the confidence of your rookie, franchise quarterback makes him invaluable.

With having an impact both on and off the field, to both receivers and quarterbacks, retaining Jamison Crowder was vital for the future success of the young Jets players.

The Jets might’ve landed their next big pass rusher with Carl Lawson

carl lawson, new york jets

It has been quite some time since the New York Jets have had an elite pass rusher to lead their defense, and they might’ve landed one in Cincinnati Bengals star Carl Lawson. At 25 years old, Lawson is a former fourth-round pick out of Auburn, and he is just hitting his stride in the NFL, posting 5.5 sacks last year over 16 games as a defensive end.

With Robert Salah deploying a 4–3 defense with the Jets, Lawson fits the mold perfectly at DE. The Jets have a solid interior pass rush with Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins manning the interior. Williams is also capable of kicking out to DE and rushing from a 3-5 tech position.

The Jets also have Vinnie Curry, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, in 2020. He posted a 70.9 overall pass rush grade with four sacks, per PFF, so pairing him with Lawson represents a solid duo.

In fact, Lawson believes he is capable of being one of the best pass rushers in football, and this season may offer him an opportunity to reach that goal.

“I feel like the sky is the limit,” Lawson said, “but, at the end of the day, this is life. Not every goal you set is going to happen because there are external factors. But I will do everything in my power possible to reach my highest level of potential and what I think I can possibly be, which is something otherworldly.”

As a player who posted 32 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles last year, there is no question that Lawson can maximize his game with a fantastic defensive-minded coach like Salah. The Bengals have historically been an inadequate team the past half-decade or so, as their defense ranked in the bottom half of the league last year in points allowed per game.

Lawson was one of their lone stand-out performers in the trenches, and he is looking to increase his sack totals with the Jets after posting just 5.5 last year. As a 6’2″, 265 pound DE, the sky is certainly the limit for a young player with the right mentality.

“I want the sacks to go up regardless,” Lawson said. “I have the mindset that no matter who is around me I should win my 1-on-1 [matchup]. That’s a great thing to have – great interior players – but the way I think of it is to produce no matter what the situation because what if everybody got hurt? Could I use that as my excuse for [fewer] sacks? No.”

Ultimately, if the Jets can command adequate double teams in the trenches and allow Lawson to capitalize on 1V1 matchups, he will feast in 2021. The Jets have had unfortunate injuries the past few seasons, so if they can remain healthy, he should be in great shape moving forward.

New York Jets: What key positions are of concern after home-run offseason?

new york jets, zach wilson

With the conclusion of 2021 NFL Draft on May 1st, the New York Jets have officially completed the first major step in rebuilding their ailing franchise. Allocating their second overall pick toward one of the brightest prospects entering the league, in quarterback Zach Wilson, the Jets made grand strides in the draft to put their offense back on track with young, cornerstone players that have the ability to put this team on a path to greatness.

That being said, the Jets by no means were able to patch up all the holes they needed to offensively, despite selecting four straight offensive players with their first four picks in the draft. Coming off a season where they had the worst offense in the league and averaged a total of 15.2 points per game, the Jets did just about everything they could in the draft to address most of their key concerns, but even then, still have several spots that could use more depth and improvement.

Naturally, both the quarterback and wide receiver positions do not consist of these concerns for the Jets anymore. After drafting Wilson second overall to patch up their biggest hole at the quarterback position, the Jets decided to bolster an already stacked wide receiver unit (that consists of Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Denzel Mims) by drafting the impressive Ole Miss wideout in Elijah Moore with their third pick in the draft.

But with these two positions stocked full with talent, the looming question that remains is which of the other offensive positions require the most improvement for the Jets to become the dominant, playoff team they once were over a decade ago? In short, there are only three other positions to focus on. However, prioritizing does matter and needs to be taken into account if the Jets aim at taking that next big step towards becoming a winning team again. So, on that note, here are the top three positions the Jets need to improve on before the season kicks off in September:

3. Tight End: Though this is the position that requires the least amount of attention, it’s still one that could use an injection of talent. With Chris Herndon leading the pack followed by Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, and then Daniel Brown, the Jets have all the depth they need at the tight end position; but the overall skillset and promise from this group is still pretty low.

Brown hasn’t really seen a lot of playing time over his entire career and has been predominantly pigeonholed as a backup (ESPN). Griffin, who’s a seasoned eight-year veteran in the league, brings solid run blocking and has proven he can be a good red-zone threat for the Jets (ESPN). But with that comes half-decent route running and a slow pace that has made it difficult for him to become a reliable target. Kroft, who’s a new addition from the Buffalo Bills, does bring great hands but, then again, hasn’t been able to reproduce the same offensive success he once had in Cincinnati back in 2017 (ESPN). Lastly, there’s Herndon, who the Jets are planning to start.

Though he’s only 25 and is their most athletic tight end, Herndon hasn’t had a whole lot to show for in two full seasons and has struggled with consistency. And despite having a positive rookie campaign, Herndon hasn’t been the same since. Whether any of these players will rise to the occasion has still yet to be determined. But this mixed bag of talent and role players could use a little help. And with a variety of affordable options still available on the free-agent market, the Jets should consider acquiring another strong, tight end before the start of the season (Spotrac).

2. Running Back: Ever since the departure of Le’Veon Bell, the Jets have had no real solution when trying to fill the shoes he left behind. Despite signing Tevin Coleman over the offseason and drafting the exciting UNC prospect in Michael Carter, the Jets don’t have a great setup with their running back position. For starters, Coleman has struggled to stay healthy over his last two seasons, and there’s no guarantee that will change all that much this year. If he goes down, that leaves the Jets with Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine, and the rookie Carter.

Outside of the fact that the Jets offensive line is still a work in progress, none of these young running backs have proven they can be legitimate starters yet and bring a variety of differentiating skillsets to the table. Naturally, the Jets could rely on a committee backfield if Coleman does have any setbacks, which could prove to be pretty effective. But when you have a brand-new rookie quarterback, it just makes a huge difference to have an anchoring, consistent presence in the backfield that will allow them to establish that vital rapport with their new running back. And although Carter does have the tools to be that kind of a running back within the next two years, it’s unlikely the Jets will grant him that kind of a role this season due to his unfamiliarity with the league and their system.

When all is said and done, Carter was the long-term fix but certainly not the short-term solution at the running back position. And with the season only getting closer, the Jets should consider targeting Todd Gurley or bring in another dependable running back to strengthen this unit (Spotrac).

1. Offensive Line: Even after drafting Alijah Vera-Tucker 14th overall with their second pick, the Jets offensive line is still the biggest concern for this offense. Over the last two years, the Jets drafted two standout offensive linemen in Mekhi Becton and Vera-Tucker, really reinforcing and revitalizing the blindside of their unit. But from the center position all the way down the right side of the O-Line, the Jets still have Conor McGovern at center, Greg Van Roten at right guard and George Fant at right tackle, three O-Lineman who all started over 12 games last season but couldn’t garner much protection across the board.

Just to give you an idea, Sam Darnold was sacked a total of 35 times last year, finishing in 8th in that category despite only playing 12 games (ESPN). Furthermore, Joe Flacco was sacked an additional 7 times in the 5 games he played. And then, on top of that, outside of Darnold, Johnson, and running back Josh Adams, no one could muster a per-carry average of 4 yards or more.

In short, this offensive line is far from being where it needs to be, and the Jets have to find a way to provide much better protection. The depth is certainly there, but considering how feeble this offensive line was just a season ago that so happened to involve four of their current five starters, the Jets have some serious thinking to do and should look to go after another strong guard or tackle before the season commences (Spotrac).

New York Jets to open season against a familiar face

The New York Jets‘ Week 1 game has finally been released and it should be an interesting one. On Sept. 12, the Jets will travel to Carolina to face Sam Darnold and the Panthers.

Sam Darnold, who was dealt to Carolina after a subpar three seasons in New York, will be getting an early chance to show what they moved on from. For the Jets and Zach Wilson, it’ll be an early chance for them to show why they moved in a new direction.

Darnold isn’t the only former Jet on the Panthers’ roster, though. They also have WR Robby Anderson, S Justin Burris, OL Pat Elflein, RB Trenton Cannon and LB Frankie Luvu on their team.

As for New York, new additions on offense, including WR’s Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, will look to make it a better day for Zach Wilson than Sam Darnold.

The Jets haven’t defeated the Panthers since 2001, winning 13-12. However, they have been good recently in road openers, winning four of their last six. They’ll look to make that five of their last seven.

New HC Robert Saleh will look to start his era with a win on the road, and what better way to start than against the former “franchise quarterback.”

New York Jets land CB Brandin Echols out of Kentucky

brandin echols, jets

The New York Jets continue to spend the back half of their draft providing weapons for Robert Saleh. Brandin Echols, a 5 foot 11, 178-pound corner from Kentucky, is the latest addition. Echols played alongside day two selection Kelvin Joseph and had success in his two seasons down south. The receiver converted to corner and began his career on the JUCO route. After being named a JUCO All American, Echols transferred to Kentucky and quickly earned a starting role.

Echols debuted in his Junior season playing 13 games and racking up 54 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 9 PDs and 2 FFs. Echols caught some eyes and expectations rose going into his senior season. Up against some of the top receivers in the country, Echols held his own, and finished his season with 54 tackles, 2.0 TFLs and an INT.

Echols progressed as a corner and given he is still relatively new to the position he still can grow. He has great fluidity and excellent speedrunning a blazing 4.30 forty. He is a superb athlete who can hang with some of the burners in the league. The expectation is he and Carter Jr. will likely compete for playing time in the slot and in various packages. Echols has shown more in coverage to this point but both players are exceptional athletes.

One thing to note with Echols is that he does have the size to play outside if need be. His game may not fit there as well as Jason Pinnock, but if he can utilize his speed on the outside he could earn playing time there as well, and relatively quickly. This is another high upside swing on a defensive back as the Jets look to round out their secondary.