When New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas traded up for offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, the expectations were immediately heightened.
That doesn’t concern Hall of Fame offensive tackle Anthony Muñoz, who’s anticipating big things from the Jets left guard.
“When it’s time to produce I wouldn’t look at Vera-Tucker on the field like there’s a rookie out there,” Muñoz told team contributor Jack Bell, “he’s just a rookie because he was drafted.”
This is high praise coming from an offensive lineman of Muñoz’s caliber.
The former Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round pick of the 1980 NFL draft played 13 seasons for Cincy before attempting one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His resume is one of legend, with 11 consecutive All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors from 1981-91.
Muñoz is also a member of the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams and was voted the NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year three times. He played in two Super Bowls but was unable to secure a championship ring.
With a track record like that, it’s easy to understand that when Muñoz speaks, people listen. Here’s the video from when the two first met one another.
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Muñoz Impressed by All Aspects of AVT
Vera-Tucker’s versatility was the first thing that struck Muñoz as a rarity. The ability to play both guard and tackle at an extremely high level at USC is something you don’t see from most prospects.
The next thing that stood out to the NFL legend was AVT’s personality. Muñoz called him “genuine and down to earth,” with an intense focus on his craft and an eagerness to learn and work.
As the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 1991, the Hall of Famer knows a little something about a man’s character and he seemed pleasantly surprised by Vera-Tucker’s.
Don’t think that means that the Jets rookie is a pushover on the field. Muñoz explained that the best offensive linemen have a switch that they turn on once they’re matched up with someone in the trenches.
“He’s just going to be poised, polite, then you’ll see a different side once he’s on the field,” the all-time great told Bell.
In the end, Muñoz predicted that the Jets guard is “going to be a great, great player.”
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Vera-Tucker Has Endless Potential
So far, it’s hard to find a flaw in the consistent left guard out of USC. He’s got it all; work ethic, strength, technique, lateral athleticism, footwork, passion, character and versatility.
Muñoz isn’t the only one taking notice either, NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger chose AVT as his greatest non-QB impact rookie in 2021.
Douglas also couldn’t help but rave over Vera-Tucker in Gang Green’s behind-the-scenes docuseries, Flight 2021: An Offseason with the New York Jets. That led to the internet-famous “Gozilla mode” quote from the Jets GM.
As Douglas notes, that type of recovering ability is unique among O-line prospects.
AVT has a sturdy anchor, which allows him to drive defenders downfield when he needs to, but also entrench himself against powerful bull-rushers. In that clip, he’s able to eat up the pass-rusher with brute force before taking him and spitting him back out.
That’s the type of play that turns a head like Muñoz’s or Baldinger’s.
Douglas Builds & Wilson Smiles
After the Morgan Moses addition on the right side, the Jets O-line should look like this in 2021:
That’s a vast improvement from a season ago and no one is happier than rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
Expect this offense to try and dominate the line of scrimmage running the football this year, which should free up the play-action whenever offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is feeling more aggressive.
For a Douglas-certified monster like Vera-Tucker, an unstoppable rushing attack sounds like any old afternoon in Tokyo.