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Alijah Vera-Tucker: Jets' Swiss Army Knife on the Offensive Line

Veteran T Duane Brown Calls AVT’s OL Moves “Truly Unique”


Think of Jets' budding second-year cornerstone Alijah Vera-Tucker as a traveler on the offensive line.

Is there a position on the O-line that AVT can't play?

"Me being as confident as I am, I would like to say no," said the USC product who the Jets drafted in the first round in 2021 after trading up. "I haven't played right tackle or center, so hopefully I can cross those off later on in the future."

He added, speaking about his surprise start at left tackle at Pittsburgh last week, when he did not allow a sack or QB hit while helping to protect QB Zach Wilson's blind side: "That's just God blessing me being an athletic big man [6-5. 309]. It was definitely an experience being out there again, not playing tackle the last two years. But it was fun, it was cool, and I enjoyed it."

For now, AVT has emerged as the wildly versatile wild card for head coach Robert Saleh as the Jets (2-2) prepare to face the Miami Dolphins (3-1) in an AFC East rivalry game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

"It speaks volumes to him, one as an athlete, and two of his mindset," Saleh said. "He doesn't flinch. I can't say enough about him. His selflessness to be able to go out and do that, a lot of guys would be worried about how they would look on tape. But he's just team first, not even worried about what he will put on tape, because in his mind he is going to go dominate, and to his credit, he did it."

Following along to the machinations on the Jets' offensive line through a month of the 2022 NFL season can be as challenging as deciphering a challenging puzzle. The first shoe dropped when the Jets signed LG Laken Tomlinson in free agency and AVT agreed to a move to right guard. Early in training camp, George Fant, who replaced Mekhi Becton at left tackle last season, was named the starter. Becton moved to the right side, again next to AVT, but sustained a season-ending knee injury early in camp.

Fant went back to the right side, before sustaining an injury, when the Jets signed LT Duane Brown, who has been on Injured Reserve since sustaining a shoulder injury. And while there were quiet discussions with AVT about taking that left turn, the offensive line faces yet another challenge after impressive rookie Max Mitchell is expected to miss some time with a knee injury.

Vera-Tucker's skill at multiple positions has not been lost on his teammates.

"It's phenomenal," center Connor McGovern said. "Not only does he do it and goes out and he's selfless and willing to do whatever it takes to win a game and help his team out, he does it at an extremely high level."

He added, referring to AVT's versatility: "It is huge. It's kind of about being ambidextrous. His strong inside hand is now switched and now what your hands are doing is switched, which is always hard. It's almost as hard as writing with your opposite hand, and you have to do it really, really well and at the same level, which is just not easy. So, for him to go over to left tackle and ball out, it's been pretty nice.

How high a level? A recent published report citing Sportsradar said that AVT is one of 42 players to start at three or more different O-line positions in the first 20 games of their NFL careers, since 2006. He is the only player in Jets history to stake a claim to that distinction.

"Truly unique, man," said Brown, who has played left tackle during his 15 seasons in the league and returned to practice this week. "Just really impressive. I talked to him quite a bit, just letting him know how impressive it is. I think he knows that, but he's a humble guy. You go on the road, into a hostile environment. ... I mean, he graded out like he has been playing left tackle the whole time."

Brown added: "You know, I take my hat off to AVT man. I don't think a lot of people understand how tough it is to transition from right guard and left tackle within a few days' notice and play a guided plan at a high level. And to know he didn't even bat an eye. Same when Max went down. [Conor] McDermott stepped in and did a heck of a job. And so, we got a great group, you know what I mean?"

See the top photos from Wednesday's indoor practice leading up to the Dolphins game.

As versatile and skillful as he is, what also sets AVT apart is that since he joined the Jets last season, and now through 20 regular-season games, he has not missed a single snap -- 1,026 last season and 302 so far this season. All that while not committing a single penalty.

"It was definitely a lot," Vera-Tucker said about last week's surprise. "I feel like it's a lot to process. For anybody, you know, just flipping it, especially from inside to outside. But that just comes with a lot of study. Studying, you know, just had to do a little bit more extra work last week, and that's pretty much it."

Young, confident and talented ... not to mention recognized by his teammates as a linchpin, after 20 games, on a young and evolving Jets team.

"You know, all the guys behind me and his locker room, all of them are supporting me," he said. "So that's a great feeling for everybody. It's a blessing for me to know I have all the support. I don't take it for granted."

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