Home Sports Jets lose top O-lineman Vera-Tucker for season

Jets lose top O-lineman Vera-Tucker for season

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Jets lose top O-lineman Vera-Tucker for season

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New York Jets right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, the team’s best and most versatile offensive lineman, will miss the rest of the season after tearing an Achilles tendon, an MRI revealed Monday.

It’s the second straight season-ending injury for Vera-Tucker, and they both happened in the same stadium — Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.

Vera-Tucker tore a triceps tendon last Oct. 23 in the second quarter of a Jets victory over the Broncos. Once again, he was felled in the second quarter of a win, this time by a score of 31-21. He was injured on a benign play — pass blocking against linebacker Jonathon Cooper. Vera-Tucker tore the tendon on a routine backpedal on a grass field. He knew he was hurt — he motioned to the sideline — but stayed in the game for another play.

It’s a terrible blow for Vera-Tucker, a 2021 first-round pick who has played every position on the offensive line except center. By the end of the season, he will have missed 23 of 51 games in his career.

“It’s the second year in a row and we’re all kind of surprised because he played a play on it,” coach Robert Saleh said. “He walked off on his own power, he walked to the locker room on his own power, so we were pretty optimistic that [the Achilles] was going to be OK.

“But it’s a blow and I feel bad for him. He battled his way back in the offseason from the injury a year ago and to have this happen again, it’s unfortunate.”

The Jets lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a torn Achilles on the fourth play of the season, and now the same injury could force them to shuffle the offensive line. Left tackle Duane Brown (hip) already is on injured reserve; he’s eligible to return in Week 8 against the New York Giants.

In the short term, they probably will play Max Mitchell at right tackle Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Mitchell, who started five games last season as a rookie, replaced Vera-Tucker on Sunday and played the entire second half as the Jets racked up 234 yards on the ground. Another option is Billy Turner, the swing tackle.

“We’ll keep that one close to the vest for the week,” Saleh said of his plan, “but we have our options in-house.”

The Jets also have rookie Carter Warren, who is eligible to be activated from IR, but he missed OTAs and most of training camp because of knee and shoulder injuries. The fourth-round pick from Pitt has “a long way to go,” according to Saleh, but he could be added to the roster this week to serve as the fourth tackle.

The interesting decision will happen when Brown, 38, is ready to return. Mekhi Becton, who started the season at right tackle, has settled into the left tackle position, his natural spot. Brown has played exclusively at left tackle throughout his 17-year career. If the Jets want Brown in the lineup, it would mean moving Becton back to right tackle.

“We’ll see,” Saleh said. “We’ll take it week-to-week.”

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