Jets First-Year Talent Earns Lone Spot on PFWA’s All-Rookie Team

Alijah Vera-Tucker, Zach Wilson, Michael Carter

Getty Alijah Vera-Tucker (#75) blocks for Zach Wilson (#2) and Michael Carter (#32) as three New York Jets rookies operate the offense.

After an up-and-down draft class in 2020, New York Jets GM Joe Douglas appeared to hit on several picks in 2021.

Quarterback Zach Wilson, running back Michael Carter, wide receiver Elijah Moore, guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, and cornerbacks Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols were all day-one starters as rookies. Jamien Sherwood and Jason Pinnock also displayed potential when called upon to start at linebacker and safety.

That’s solid production from eight out of 10 draft picks but only one made the 2021 Professional Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team.

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AVT Honored by PFWA

The PFWA has awarded an All-Rookie team since 1974 and in 2021, the Jets landed one spot on the offensive side — left guard ‘AVT.’

Vera-Tucker joined Trey Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs as the two first-year NFL guards to earn the prestigious honor.

The PFWA named linebacker Micah Parsons as the third Dallas Cowboys player to win their Rookie of the Year award and the first to win their Defensive Rookie of the Year. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase became the first PFWA Offensive Rookie of the Year selection from his franchise.

Three organizations led the way with three players each — Cleveland Browns, Chiefs and Miami Dolphins — and five teams had two rookies make the roster. In total, 16 franchises out of 32 were represented.

No Jets prospect has ever won the PFWA Rookie of the Year or Offensive Rookie of the Year, but defensive end Hugh Douglas did win the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1995.

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Vera-Tucker’s All-Rookie Season

Many viewed the USC product as an elite run-blocking O-lineman out of college and Vera-Tucker has lived up to the billing in year one with a 72.5 grade from Pro Football Focus in that area.

He was also dependable. Sometimes availability is the best ability and AVT lead the Jets offense in total snaps in 2021 with 1,026. The left guard only missed one game during his inaugural campaign due to a COVID-19 outbreak that decimated the Green & White roster in Week 16.

If there is a weakness in Vera-Tucker’s game so far, it’s definitely his pass protection which has a lot of room for improvement. PFF graded his pass-blocking at a 56.9 in year one after AVT allowed 42 quarterback pressures.

On the bright side, he was only charged with two sacks on the season (six QB hits). He also put together a 14-game streak with no sacks allowed, being that his only two came in Weeks 1 and 18.

Jets X-Factor analyst Michael Nania noticed some trends in his pass protection tape.

“Interesting numbers on AVT’s pass pro via PFF,” he tweeted. “In ‘true pass sets’ (which removes quick passes, screens, rollouts, etc), AVT was perfectly average: gave up pressure on 8.28% of snaps vs NFL average of 8.19% for guards. So, he was holding up okay in true 1-on-1 situations.”

Nania continued: “However, on *non* true pass set snaps, he allowed pressure 4.22% of the time, which is much higher than NFL guard average of 2.42% in those situations. That ranked 62nd of 65 qualified Gs. His total of 16 non-TPS pressures allowed tied for the most in the league among Gs.”

Finally, the Jets analyst explained non-true pass set snaps versus true pass set snaps: “Most non-TPS pressures are from stunt/blitz pickups, etc – which lines up with what I saw from his game this year. Raw talent is there but was part of a lot of breakdowns. That’s the #1 area where AVT can improve in Yr2. Of course, it’s very fixable w/ time. He’ll get it.”

One other statistic jumped out — the Jets had some of their top performances when Vera-Tucker played well. His two elite PFF grades came against the Atlanta Falcons (90.7, 86.7 RB, 88.9 PB) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (90.0, 88.5 RB, 71.5 PB). Although Gang Green lost both outings, they were narrow defeats and the Jets really should have beaten the Bucs if not for a late-game miscue.

New York also upset the Tennessee Titans during his second-best pass protection performance (82.6) of 2021 behind Atlanta and the Bengals during his third-best run-blocking showing (84.1) behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

There you have it. When AVT has a day, the Jets generally do too.

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