While there is little doubt that Jets TE Jace Amaro can stretch the field, his blocking is a "work in progress," according to Jets TE coach Jimmie Johnson.
"He has done a better job sustaining his blocks and trying to stay engaged," Johnson said. "All of that is promising."
The Jets drafted Amaro in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, after he caught 106 receptions for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns for Texas Tech in 2013. The team was impressed with the tight end's measurables (4.74-second 40-yard dash, 33-inch vertical at the NFL combine), but knew it would take a lot of work to improve the 6-foot-6, 260-pound talented athlete's technique. He was rarely asked to block while playing in college, which has led to him struggling with it in the NFL.
"At this level, sometimes you've got some real big guys on the other side of the ball," Johnson said. "You've got to focus a lot on your technique, footwork, hat placement and hand placement. Those are the things that will help him be successful with his in-line blocking.
"If he can continue to work on those things, Jace will be OK. Those things are your saving grace because sometimes you get guys that are bigger than you, stronger than you, and your technique will get you through."
In 14 games during his rookie season, Amaro caught 38 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The tight end sat out all of last season after tearing his labrum during a preseason game.
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This doesn't sound very promising. As you'd expect, Amaro was mostly featured in the passing game rather than as a blocker in the first two preseason games. He executed a couple of blocks well in the first game but was a little more tentative on Friday night.
Assuming he makes the team, Amaro will feature mostly at the H-back position, in the role Quincy Enunwa started to occupy with good effect towards the end of last season. His size relative to defensive backs covering the slot could enable him to contribute in the running game sometimes, but his inconsistency probably limits how much they'll run to his side or use him inline.
With Enunwa missing time due to a concussion, Amaro must make some good contributions in the next game or two, otherwise he might not even make the final roster.