There's a lot of pressure to live up to expectations as an early round draft pick in the NFL. That pressure rises exponentially when the team you're drafted by changes leadership early in your career. Such is the situation facing two members of the New York Jets.
Neither Jace Amaro nor Dee Milliner were drafted by the current leadership of Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan. The two are leftover from the 2013 and 2014 drafts conducted by John Idzik and as such have something to prove if they want to stick around long term.
Milliner was the #9 overall pick out of Alabama in the 2013 draft and has struggled with injuries his entire career. He did play 13 games his rookie season in 2013 following Darrelle Revis' departure for Tampa Bay. While attempting to fill island-sized shoes, Milliner recored 56 total tackles and three total interceptions. However, he has played just 8 games over the last two seasons. In 2014 he tore his Achilles tendon in Week 3 missed the rest of the season and in 2015 he began the season on short term IR and when he returned, played only special teams. He has seven tackles in those 8 games.
The Jets informed Milliner in the spring that they were not going to pick up his 5th year option, making 2016 his final chance to earn a second NFL contract. He has had a good training camp so far and has had the chance to play with the first team while Revis recovers from offseason wrist surgery. Milliner and Marcus Williams are competing for the chance to start alongside Revis and Buster Skrine but Milliner might be starting behind the pace as Williams racked up 6 interceptions under Bowles' watchful eye last season whereas Milliner hasn't even played a defensive snap since 2014.
If the 'Bama product can live up to the expectations that come with being a Top 10 overall draft pick, he might become the second island in the Jets secondary, but if not it's unlikely Milliner lasts in green beyond this season.
Amaro was a second round draft pick in Idzik's final draft with the Jets in 2014. After recording over 100 catches in his senior season at Texas Tech, Amaro struggled with drops during his rookie year. He recorded 38 receptions for 345 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games, an average of just under three catches per game and under 25 yards per game. But Amaro missed all of 2015 after suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder before the season. Amaro is another player with a lot to show the new leadership who have never seen him play. He becomes even more important given the vanishing act put on by Jets' tight ends last year: group had just 8 catches all season. Much like Milliner, Amaro is just excited to show Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey what he can do.
Not only do Bowles and Gailey not know what Amaro is capable of on the field, they're not even sure what position he is. Amaro has always been a strong pass catcher with perhaps questionable blocking skills. The coaching staff has at times expressed interest in playing him as an H-back but some think he could also serve in Quincy Enunwa's hybrid wide receiver/tight end position. Amaro does have one additional year on his contract when compared to Milliner, but it doesn't mean he can afford to underperform for the new bosses.