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Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton might be protection Jets need as foundation

FILE - Southern California offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker

FILE - Southern California offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker (75) is shown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., in this Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, file photo. Vera-Tucker is a possible first round pick in the NFL Draft, April 29-May 1, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File) Credit: AP/Rick Scuteri

Alijah Vera-Tucker already has started thinking about what it would be like, lining up next to Mekhi Becton, and doing that for many years.

Vera-Tucker is not alone.

The Jets envisioned such a pairing on the left side of their offensive line to make sure Zach Wilson is protected and has the time and room to make plays. General manager Joe Douglas made it happen by trading up from No. 23 to 14 to draft the versatile Vera-Tucker, who looks forward to working with Becton.

"Being able to play alongside Mekhi, that’s just two physical players on that left side. That would be great," Vera-Tucker said during a Saturday Zoom interview from the Jets facility. "At the same time, it’s where the team needs me. If they need me to be left guard, right [guard], right tackle, wherever, I’m just going to come in and play. But I’ve definitely been thinking about that."

The 6-4, 315-pound Vera-Tucker said his physicality, having quick feet and hands and being able to adjust to different pass rushers make him "a real dominant player."

Vera-Tucker played right guard, left guard and left tackle in his three years at USC. But Becton is the Jets' franchise left tackle. They used the No. 11 pick on him last year, and the 6-7, 365-pound behemoth showed he can dominate as well.

But it’s significant that the Jets under Douglas have addressed the offensive line in the first round in back-to-back drafts. They haven’t done that since 1977-78 when they took Marvin Powell and Chris Ward in consecutive drafts.

Douglas will continue to strengthen the line to give Wilson a chance to shine in this quarterback-driven league.

The Jets gave up a lot to get Vera-Tucker. They sent picks 23, 66 and 86 in the third round to Minnesota for 14 and 143 in the fourth. The Jets ultimately traded No. 143 to the Raiders.

"For a team that put that much faith in me is really an amazing experience," Vera-Tucker said. "I got to come in and prove them all right. That’s going to be an easy thing to do just because I’ve been doing it all my life. I just compete every day."

The Jets’ first four picks in this draft were offensive players. They selected do-it-all wide receiver Elijah Moore out of Mississippi in the second round and North Carolina running back Michael Carter in the fourth.

Moore is someone who can do so many things in LaFleur’s offense. He lined up at slot, on the outside and in the backfield at Ole Miss. Coach Robert Saleh can see him being a Swiss-army knife like that for the Jets.

"He’s dynamic," Saleh said. "When he gets the ball in his hands, he becomes something different. His ability to separate in routes, his ability to run Jet sweeps coming out of the backfield, he’s extremely versatile.

"When he’s on the field you just got to be able to expect everything."

Vera-Tucker never spoke to Wilson before becoming his teammate two nights ago. He knows Moore because they both trained at EXOS in Phoenix. Vera-Tucker then gave Saleh’s famous mantra to describe some of the newest Jets.

"Zach Wilson’s a competitor, which I like because I am as well," Vera-Tucker said. "Elijah Moore worked out at EXOS where I did training for the combine and pro day. I know his work ethic. I know he’s all gas, no brakes. That’s pretty much the guys that this staff is trying to bring into this building."

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