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Alijah Vera-Tucker: Guard or Tackle – Where Will He Play?

Alijah Vera-Tucker has played both offensive guard and offensive tackle, but the Jets must lock down a permanent position this season.
New York Jets offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker

The 2021 NFL Draft was a landmark opportunity for the New York Jets. Joe Douglas was entering the off-season with the second overall pick and the 21st overall pick thanks to the Jamal Adams trade. The organization made a critical error in selecting Zach Wilson out of BYU to be their “franchise quarterback” under Robert Saleh. While that dream eroded, they did leave with something helpful. After trading up several spots with the Minnesota Vikings. This allowed Joe Douglas to draft stand-out offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC. He was highly touted and demonstrated his abilities by becoming a force in the Jets’ running game. However, he has since had back-to-back season-ending injuries after playing multiple positions. With the need to improve the unit, New York must lock down a permanent position for him. It’s the only way to ensure they can protect Aaron Rodgers this year.

Alijah Vera-Tucker: Guard or Tackle – Where Will He Play?

The arrival of Alijah Vera-Tucker had fans elated. The offensive line had long passed their standout season in 2015. A unit that was looking for a new identity and leader after beloved center Nick Mangold retired. The fanbase went on to rally around the versatile offensive linemen. Immediately, the selection paid off. Remarkably, Alijah Vera-Tucker won the starting left guard job and started 16 games in his rookie year. He was named to the All-Rookie team as well. Vera-Tucker’s presence gave fans optimism that they can successfully rebuild the offensive line.

Beginning in 2022, Vera-Tucker would change positions. He moved from left guard to right guard after the arrival of Laken Tomlinson in free agency. The change paid off as the team started the season red hot with a 5-2 record in October thanks to a four-game winning streak. However, the season went off the rails in Denver after Vera-Tucker and Breece Hall suffered season-ending injuries. Sustaining a torn tricep during the game, Vera-Tucker’s season was over before Halloween.

He returned healthy in 2023 and returned to the right guard position. Injuries throughout the unit saw him play both left and right tackle as well. He was efficient at right tackle next to rookie Joe Tippmann. However, surprisingly Vera-Tucker once again suffered a season-ending injury at right tackle in Denver. After suffering a torn Achilles, Vera-Tucker’s season was once again over before Halloween. The former all-rookie guard went from playing every game his rookie year to playing a total of 12 games the past two years.

Where should he play?

As of this writing, Alijah Vera-Tucker has continued his rehab and is on his way to being back for the start of the season. Assuredly, New York is guaranteed to be looking at upgrades on the offensive line next year. Protecting Aaron Rodgers and the backup QB will be priority number one, especially with Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown heading into free agency. This will leave Joe Douglas looking to find long-term answers at the tackle position. A difficult task for any general manager, especially for Joe Douglas as his future in the organization is questioned.

This is where Alijah Vera-Tucker can help. Vera-Tucker has been a force at guard and has greatly benefited the running game. However, sources like Pro Football Focus show Vera-Tucker is statistically better in pass protection at tackle than guard. One potential option could see Vera-Tucker at left tackle while the team drafts Oregon State right tackle with the 10th overall pick. Fuaga was a force at Oregon State helping Damien Martinez rush for over 2,100 yards the past two seasons. Imagine the ways he can help Breece Hall next year.

Ideally, the focus should be on trading up for Joe Alt or Olu Fashanu earlier in the first. However, that will complicate the push to trade for Davante Adams from Las Vegas. Joe Douglas made it known the team tried to trade for the Raiders receiver at the trade deadline. If New York can leave the offseason with Adams and two starting tackles, the offense will be in a better place than this season.

Main Photo: [Vincent Carchietta] – USA Today Sports


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