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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Over the years the Jets have struggled to get production from its tight ends. Last season, the group only managed to catch eight balls for the team, but that can be expected when your top two receivers are Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker who each had 1,000 yard seasons.
Tight end is a position desired by many teams around the league, largely known as being the quarterback's "security blanket." The truth is, the Jets haven't had a viable option at tight end since Dustin Keller. Maybe Anthony Becht or Chris Baker?
"We're working hard to try to make sure we're a bigger part of the offense this upcoming year," said tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson. "Having eight catches from the group is something you would like to improve on."
Consistency at the position would open up the middle of the field in the passing game, leaving more room on the outside for Marshall and Decker, which would subsequently give Matt Forte more room to operate in the running game.
"We had a lot of success with Brandon and Deck, those were Fitz' favorite targets," said Johnson. "There were occasions where we may not have been open and we didn't get the ball, but that was last year."
In his third-year, tight end Jace Amaro hasn't played a game since 2014, his rookie season where he caught 38 passes for 345 yards. Last season, Amaro struggled with injuries which kept him sidelined for the entire year. But this season Amaro is healthy and prepared to showcase the hard work he's put in this off-season.
"The first year was extremely difficult," said Amaro. "I feel a lot better, a lot more comfortable."
That comfort has left Amaro feeling right at home practicing under second-year offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
"I feel like Chan's system's similar to what I did at Texas Tech," said Amaro. "I think it's helped me for what I did in college and I feel really comfortable now. We're doing more elaborate things with the offense, last year was more vanilla, moving guys to the left, moving guys to the right, doing different things."
The Jets drafted Amaro in the second-round with the expectation that he could be a complementary receiver who could catch passes in the red zone. Operating out of the spread offense, Amaro's six-foot-five frame helped him excel in college. But in the NFL, he's had to adjust to a new style of play and become more rounded in his skill-set, especially blocking, an area where he's struggled.
"That's something he didn't necessarily do when he was at Texas Tech, but he's made a lot of strides when he was in pads last year prior to getting hurt, and thus far with what we've asked him to do in OTAs," said Johnson. "You can see that he's put a lot of effort into trying to improve that part of his game."
Currently, the Jets have a core group of players who are all competing to make the 53-man roster. The unit is diverse in experience from nine-year veteran Kellen Davis, to rookie Jason Vander Lann.
In addition to those players, Johnson has liked what he's seen in camp from the six-player group as a whole.
If he keeps his health intact Amaro will likely be the starter at the beginning of the regular season. For now coach Johnson, like the majority of us, will wait for the start of training camp to further evaluate.
"I think a lot of this stuff is going to play out," said Johnson. Once we get into training camp, it'll take care of itself but it's hard to say who's going to do what when we're just running around in t-shirts and shorts."
Once thing's for certain, coach Johnson wants more production out of the unit.
"It helps the offense, it helps Brandon, it helps Deck, so from that perspective we hope we can be a little more involved this year."
"I want the tight ends to have 100 balls," he said with laughter.
Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for Jetsinsider.com He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)