The Jets finally have their offense intact, with the re-signing of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
And with stellar holdovers in wideouts Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker already in tow -- not to mention the addition of pass-catching maven, running back Matt Forte – the Jets really have the look of a potent passing offense that can rival any in the league.
That being said, there’s still one hole in their aerial attack, and that’s tight end. This is where Jace Amaro joins the equation. Entering his third season, the former Texas Tech star hasn’t quite yet lived up to his draft billing as a second round pick. While his rookie year wasn’t bad (14 games played, 38 catches for 345 yards, and two touchdowns), it was marred with drops. And his second season was a complete bust, as he missed the entire campaign due to a torn labrum suffered in the team’s first preseason game.
Amaro is back in camp and ready to contribute, as he’s put in massive amount of time re-configuring his catching technique, and almost as important, his blocking. Standing a hulking 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Amaro has the look of a tenacious blocker, but his time at Texas Tech mainly featured his pass-catching wares. The Red Raiders run a spread offense where the tight ends see blocking merely as an option. It’s where Amaro picked up bad habits, but hopes to break them to become a complete tight end to help balance the Jets’ offense.
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Run blocking will have to be a huge part of Amaro’s tool box if he wants to stay on the field. It’s his primary weakness in a skill set that physically matches with any tight end in the league. He knows that pass catching is his best asset, but is also aware that if he can’t help open holes for Forte, he won’t be of any use.
"Obviously, if I want to play, I can't just catch the ball. I've got to be able to do both,” Amaro said. “If I'm able to do both, I feel like I could fit right in with this team. I feel like I'm strong enough and big enough to be able to block anybody out here.”
Marshall and Decker – and to an extent Forte – will see the lion’s share of targets from Fitzpatrick. And while the blocking needs to improve, Amaro knows the real reason why the Jets selected him so high.
He noted his offseason work of catching “roughly 400 balls a day” back home in San Antonio has truly honed his skill. The tight end said the advice given to him by Marshall in how to train his eyes and hands, so he could better attack the ball in the air also helped. It’s now to the point where Amaro said he feels “natural” catching the ball. And thanks to his arduous work this summer -- beginning with offseason OTAs – he’s “been catching the ball really well, a lot better. I just feel a lot smoother. I'm not really worried about that [drops] part anymore.”
His pass-catching work ethic was a question mark entering the 2014 draft, even though he was a unanimous All-American and set the record for Division-1single-season receiving yards by a tight end in 2013. He reasoned that he used to just rely on his athletic ability and never really thought about technique. But now that he’s a professional, and everyone is a great athlete, he needed to find a way to get him past the competition.
It’s the main reason why he’s fine tuning his technique and working hard after practices with the Juggs machine. And hopefully for the Jets and their Gang Green faithful, that hard work helps Amaro’s emergence, as the offense continues to form into a well-rounded green machine.