As he prepares for his third NFL season, Jace Amaro's claim to fame is that he triggered a war of words with Rex Ryan. Surely, you remember that unfortunate chapter in coach-player relations.
In a radio interview after Ryan was fired by the New York Jets, Amaro said the team lacked accountability in 2014. The tight end must have pushed a button because Ryan fired back, and he kept firing in subsequent interviews.
Amaro doesn't want to be remembered that way. He wants to be known for catching passes, not flak from his old coach.
"This is a big year for me, especially the way we played as a collective group," Amaro said after Wednesday's practice. "The tight ends only caught 10 balls [actually eight], so it's a big year for all of us. All I know is that we plan on getting more involved this season. I plan on getting involved a lot this season."
That's quite a statement, considering the Jets' recent history at tight end. Since 2011, their tight ends have produced a league-low 282 receptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information. By contrast, the NFL-leading New England Patriots have generated 545 catches from the position.
The Jets' drought has spanned four offensive coordinators, from Brian Schottenheimer to Tony Sparano to Marty Mornhinweg to Chan Gailey. We're talking about four entirely different systems, so you can't blame the lack of numbers on coaching. It's the talent; they haven't had a true pass-catching tight end since Dustin Keller.
Amaro hopes to change that.
He was a record-breaking receiver at Texas Tech, a second-round pick in 2014. He caught 38 passes as a rookie, but folks remember his six drops more than any of his receptions. Amaro didn't play a single down last season because he underwent labrum surgery in the preseason. Before the injury, he was listed as the No. 3 tight end on the depth chart, raising eyebrows.
A year ago, the Jets envisioned Amaro as an H-back, a fullback/tight end hybrid who can move around the formation. Coach Todd Bowles said they still see him as an H-back, which is interesting because Amaro doesn't share the same thought. He believes he'll get a shot to be a traditional tight end, capable of playing every down.
"It just takes a lot of practice, a lot of reps, catching the ball, doing the right things, getting open, and I think that’s one of the things I can do extremely well," Amaro said.
What do the Jets expect from Amaro? They have no idea. Really, they don't. Remember, the current regime didn't draft him and he got hurt last summer before it could formulate an evaluation.
“He’s competing for a spot like everybody else," Bowles said. "He missed a year. I haven’t seen him play yet. My first year, he was out. So getting him back healthy, it’ll be interesting to see what he does."
The position is wide open. Jeff Cumberland is gone, so the top returning tight ends are Amaro, Kellen Davis and Zach Sudfeld, who also is returning from an injury. It's surprising the front office didn't make a stronger effort to improve the position, but maybe it's counting on Amaro to blossom and become the player the old staff, including Ryan, thought he could be.