Alijah Vera-Tucker continues to be a silver lining
In each of the New York Jets‘ first four losses this season, there was a solid number of positive individual performances for fans to be excited about despite the team’s lackluster overall performance.
That was not the case in the Jets’ 54-13 loss to the Patriots in Week 7. Silver linings were difficult to find as the vast majority of the team’s players did not perform well.
One of the few exceptions was rookie left guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. The USC product has been an instant stud for the Jets, continuously moving closer and closer to establishing himself of the NFL’s top guards in his very first season.
Vera-Tucker entered Gillette Stadium with a two-game streak of allowing zero pressures. While that streak came to an end, Vera-Tucker remained strong in pass protection as he allowed only two total pressures (0 sacks, 1 hit, 1 hurry) over 47 snaps in protection.
Since Week 4, Vera-Tucker has allowed two pressures on 124 pass-protection snaps. That is a pressure rate of only 1.6%, which ranks third-best among left guards over that span. Only Jacksonville’s Andrew Norwell (0.8%) and Cincinnati Quinton Spain (1.3%) have been tougher to beat in the passing game.
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Vera-Tucker continues to showcase a versatile skill-set in the run game as well. He thrives in both gap and zone concepts as he possesses the ability to consistently create holes as a puller or out in space.
Mike LaFleur has relied upon Vera-Tucker as the engine of the Jets’ rushing attack.
On the year, the Jets have gained 84 rushing yards when running into the left-side A-gap and 80 rushing yards when running into the left-side B-gap. Those are their two best totals out of any gap on the offensive line.
The Jets’ running backs have only averaged 3.8 yards per carry into those gaps, but that beats their average on carries into all other gaps, which is 3.2.
Plus, the Jets’ running backs have been given more than twice as much before-contact yardage in Vera-Tucker’s direction. They are averaging 1.14 yards before contact into the left-side A or B-gaps and 0.46 yards before contact on rushes into any other gap.
For reference, the current 2021 league average for running backs is 1.35 yards before contact per carry. So, the runs in Vera-Tucker’s average are yielding close to a league-average amount of space for the backs to work with, while it is the rushes in all other directions where space has been scarce for the New York run game.
New York’s running backs only gained two rushing first downs against New England, and both were on carries to the left side. Vera-Tucker finished the game with a solid run-blocking grade of 71.9 at Pro Football Focus. It was his fourth game of the season with a mark of over 70.0 in that phase.
Vera-Tucker has an 81.9 run-blocking grade at PFF this season, ranking fifth-best among qualified left guards.
Quickly becoming one of the left guard position’s most reliable players in both phases, Alijah Vera-Tucker’s growth is something that Jets fans can feel good about in the midst of this bleak time.
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