Jace Amaro. Is he the future at tight end for the New York Jets or is he just another guy? To asses his future, Cole Patterson took a look at last season. With retrospect on Amaro’s 2014, what does 2015 hold?
Jace Amaro had a solid, albeit under-the-radar, rookie season. He made chain moving receptions and showed good situational awareness. In the week 7 matchup against the Patriots, Amaro played a pivotal role in putting the jets in scoring position.
Amaro is split out wide right. He quickly initiates contact off the line and is able to get just enough space. He showed his physicality in catching the ball with the defender draped all over him.
Amaro showed this knack for keeping drives alive and playing with physicality all season.That being said, Amaro did struggle in two vital areas: drops and route running.
The drops were so frustrating and outstanding that they overshadowed the previously enumerated accolades. Amaro had 6 drops in 52 targets – the highest drop percentage of any tight end with at least 10 catches. Amaro made catches under duress look routine; it was the wide open ones that he whiffed. This is a common issue with rookie pass catchers. The reception appears to be a given and they focus on turning upfield before securing the ball. Amaro consistently found himself wide open, only to drop the pass outright. With such hot and cold route running, however, it was a wonder that Amaro was so open, so consistently.
It seems that every other play you watch, Amaro hits a crisp dig route or finds the perfect hole in a zone. Yet, the other half of the plays he rounds off his cuts and gets lost in the fray. Route running is usually one of the last things to develop for young pass catchers but this trend was still concerning.
Despite his apparent struggles, Amaro clearly outplayed Jeff Cumberland and Zach Sudfeld. With that in mind, one of the most baffling aspects of Amaro’s 2014 season was not in his play but his deployment. This excerpt is from an article I wrote following week 5 of last season:
The Jets have kept Amaro on an obvious snap count: 21 against Oakland, 22 against Green Bay, 23 against Chicago, 22 against Detroit, and 27 against San Diego. Let’s compare that to Jeff Cumberland: 55 against Oakland, 67 against Green Bay, 65 against Chicago, 50 against Detroit, and 52 against San Diego. Jeff Cumberland has played an outrageous 86% of the snaps this season (skewed somewhat by the 91% outlier against the Chargers). Jace Amaro, on the other hand, has played 34%of the snaps through 5 games.
Marty Mornhinweg’s usage of his tight ends made little sense when, in fewer snaps, Amaro caught three more passes then Sudfeld and Cumberland combined. Furthermore, in the same period, Amaro made at least 5 “clutch” plays – 3 drive maintaining conversions on 3rd and 4th downs and two passes to put the anemic Jets offense in scoring position.
Finally, in week 6 against the Broncos, Mornhinweg made Amaro the focal point of the offense. The results were notable: 10 of 12 targets for 68 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
The following week, the Patriots honed in on the rookie tight end and all but shut him down. Amaro’s season had been trending up until this point. However, including the Patriots game, Amaro would only see another 20 targets in 8 games, compare that to his 29 targets in 5 games.
Perhaps it was Amaro’s penchant for drops and lapses in concentration that landed him on the bench. Perhaps, as was evident this offseason, he didn’t get along well with the coaching staff. We may never know why Amaro’s role in the offense was managed so tightly. We do know, however, that he displayed more ability than any other tight end on the Jets roster.
A new year, a new offensive coordinator, and a new quarterback quandary. This is a disheartening trend for Jets fans. However, this particular mix of coordinator and quarterback could play right into Amaro’s hands.
Chan Gailey is known for his creative play calling and has been installing a spread system this offseason. The athletic H-back plays a vital role in the spread offense, taking advantage of mismatches with linebackers and in-the-box safeties out of the slot. He sees a lot of pre-snap movement to ensure favorable matchups. He is often the primary target on red zone passing plays. With Geno Smith (hopefully) benefiting from more a familiar and comfortable scheme, the H-back could become his go-to-guy. Enter: Jace Amaro.
Amaro embodies the ideal H-back. His size-speed-strength combination allows him to thrive in the slot against overmatched slot corners and linebackers. Last year he was asked to block more than his skill set warranted. Now, with blocking specialist Kellen Davis in the mix, Amaro can return to his natural place in the slot. He can reel in those contested catches and make hay after the catch.
If Amaro can overcome his concentration drops and clean up his route running, Chan Gailey has no reason not to utilize the tight end. If deployed in accordance with his skill set, Amaro could become a pivotal cog in the Jets 2015 offense and beyond.