Alijah Vera-Tucker is starting to look like the player the Jets traded up for in the 2021 draft.
The rookie has been the fifth-highest ranked guard over the past two weeks, according to Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle. Vera-Tucker finished as the highest-graded guard in Week 5 before Monday night’s game with a 92.4 overall grade that includes an 88.9 pass-block grade and a 90.6 run-block grade.
The Jets’ running game ran well behind Vera-Tucker against the Falcons. New York rushers averaged 4.6 yards per carry from Vera-Tucker’s side, according to Jets X-Factor’s Michael Nania.
Vera-Tucker’s come on strong since his slow start to the season. He hasn’t allowed a pressure since Week 3 and hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 1. His 73.1 PFF grade this season ranks 14th in the league through five weeks and his 81.3 run-block grade ranks eighth.
This is a great development for a player who cost a lot of draft capital. Vera-Tucker started slow after missing a lot of training camp and all of the preseason with a pectoral injury, but he now appears to be playing at the level the Jets expected when they traded three picks to move up and draft him.
The Jets need Vera-Tucker to be good, too. Not only did they spend a lot to acquire him, but a lot of Zach Wilson’s early struggles originated from the pressure allowed by the offensive line. Though the line is much improved, it hasn’t equated to a better offensive output – both in the air and on the ground.
The hope is as Vera-Tucker and the rest of the line continues to progress, Wilson will get more comfortable behind the line of scrimmage.