Jets Youngster Forced to Switch Positions: ‘Still a Young Pup, Will Be Fine’

Alijah Vera-Tucker Jets

Getty New York Jets offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker walking off of the football field after a big game.

The New York Jets will be playing some musical chairs with their offensive line in 2022.

At the NFL’s owner meetings, head coach Robert Saleh said that the plan is for Alijah Vera-Tucker to switch positions in the trenches.

AVT played 16 games at left guard, but will now be flipping over to the right side. While Laken Tomlinson, the $40 million free-agent acquisition, will now take over on the left side.

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Some Interesting Rationale

“You know Laken has been in the league playing left guard for a long time and AVT has shown flexibility in college playing tackle and guard. He has tremendous flexibility and he is still a young pup,” Saleh on making the change.

When analysts were speculating on which free agent offensive lineman the Jets could sign, most ruled out Tomlinson because in the NFL he has exclusively played left guard and the Jets in theory had that filled with Vera-Tucker.

Well now we understand the Jets thought process, they changed their mind and will force the youngster to flip sides instead of the veteran.

“Laken has had a lot of success at left guard in this league. He was a Pro Bowler last year and that is something we just don’t want to mess with for him. AVT will be fine he is still young and there are things he is still learning. He is very athletic and he will be able to pick it up pretty quick.”

The 30-year old Tomlinson has over 112 games logged at left guard and found his groove once he was traded to San Francisco.

I understand the logic, what Tomlinson has been doing is great, so why mess with it? However if that was a sticking point, why didn’t you go after a proven right guard instead and then everyone could’ve stayed where they’re?

Big Deal or No Deal?

There is an old strategy that has been passed down for generations that says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Vera-Tucker was selected with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft after the Jets traded up for him. He was a plug-and-play starter in the trenches and showed All-Pro potential throughout the season.

Now after playing a year at left guard and picking up the intricacies he is now being asked to flip over to the right side.

That is a very risky decision by the Jets that could come back to bite them.

When I recently spoke with longtime former offensive lineman and two-time Super Bowl champion Damien Woody, he equated switching positions on the offensive line to doing things backwards.

Imagine you’re right handed and have been doing it all your life, then all of the sudden you were asked to start writing left handed. That is how a change on the offensive line has been described to me.

On Madden you can just willy-nilly switch positions without any repercussions, but in real life there are potential cons to such a decision.

The good news is AVT has boatloads of experience at a variety of offensive line positions from his time at USC:

  • 2017: reserve offensive tackle, guard
  • 2018: 12 games (right guard)
  • 2019: 13 games (left guard)
  • 2020: 6 games (left tackle)

If anyone can make the transition to a different spot in the trenches, it would be AVT. The Jets just better hope that they don’t stunt the development of their promising 22-year old (will be 23 by the start of the 2022 season).

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