FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jace Amaro was aiming for a big breakout season a year ago.
The New York Jets tight end was coming off an up-and-down rookie campaign and trying to establish himself in new coordinator Chan Gailey's offense.
Instead, his stats line was completely empty -- unless you count all the restless days he spent trying to stay patient while rehabilitating from a shoulder injury in training camp that sidelined him all of last season.
"It was tough," Amaro said after practice earlier this week. "It was the longest period of time where I didn't play a sport. But you learn a lot. I watched a lot of film and watched a lot of games. I got healthy really quick and I feel good about it.
"I'm ready to go this year."
New York drafted Amaro in the second round in 2014 out of Texas Tech, where he set the FBS record with an eye-popping 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. With his size -- 6-foot-5, 265 pounds -- and pass-catching abilities, the Jets expected Amaro to make an immediate impact.
He finished with 38 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, dealing with some issues with inconsistency and drops, and questions about his blocking abilities in then-coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's system.
When Rex Ryan was fired and replaced by Todd Bowles, Amaro was happy for a fresh start and a new opportunity in Gailey's offense.
But Amaro never appeared to be a key part of Gailey's plans before suffering a torn labrum in the preseason opener against Detroit.
"Going from college and then going to Marty's system and then going to Chan's system, it was a big turnaround for me learning a new system every single year," Amaro said.
"But now I feel really comfortable. I know the whole playbook inside and out. I feel really good about the plays. It took me a second last year to really get it going, just like everybody else, but I think we all feel really good about his schemes right now."
How Gailey plans to use his tight ends remains to be seen. Last season, true tight ends accounted for just eight receptions, with Jeff Cumberland catching five passes and Kellen Davis three. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa was used in an H-back/tight end-like role for the Jets, finishing with 22 catches for 315 yards.
Cumberland signed with San Diego as a free agent, leaving Amaro to compete with Davis, Zach Sudfeld, Wes Saxton and Brandon Bostick and converted quarterback Jason Vander Laan for two, maybe three, spots on the Week 1 roster.
"I've really only played one year," Amaro said. "This is a big year for me. Especially with the way we played last year as a collective group, it's a big year for all of us. I know that we plan on getting more involved this season.
"I plan on getting involved a lot this season."
Bowles wouldn't guarantee anything for Amaro despite him being such a high draft pick just two years ago.
"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."
Amaro envisions himself as a three-down tight end, citing his ability to catch the ball and getting open against defenders.
"That's one of the things I can do extremely well," he said.
But Bowles indicated he sees Amaro more as an H-back -- for now -- in Gailey's system.
"I've just got to see him out there healthy," Bowles said.
Added Gailey: "We take the guys that show up in practice and in the preseason and work things out to fit what they do. ... We're still in the process of trying to evaluate."
And that means Amaro is approaching each of the OTA sessions over the next few weeks with an increased sense of urgency. He was merely a spectator for way too long. The big tight end is ready to make plays.
"These practices are going to be huge for me learning the schemes again," Amaro said. "Just getting reps and going through it with the quarterbacks and running routes and stuff like that. But, yeah, it's a big opportunity for me to get a lot better than last year was."
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