Pryor, Amaro could make fast impact for Jets
DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jace Amaro went across the middle of the field and hauled in a pass.
Then, another. And, another.
The playmaking tight end from Texas Tech was busy on the first day of rookie camp for the New York Jets on Friday. Amaro expects much of the same once the season starts.
"I think that’s why they drafted me in the second round, is to get the ball early," the second-round pick said after finishing his first practice. "For me, that was the plan, as well."
Calvin Pryor, a hard-hitting safety from Louisville, was the No. 18 overall selection last week -- and is expected to be an immediate contributor, too, in Rex Ryan’s secondary.
"Good, very impressive," Ryan said. "I’ve been really impressed with him mentally. ... Mentally, he’s sharp. He’s into it."
The Jets had a whopping 12 draft picks, and several have a chance to stick on the roster after training camp. But both Amaro and Pryor could make quick impacts, as potential starters in Week 1.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Amaro had 106 catches and seven touchdowns last season in Texas Tech’s spread offense, and often lined up as a slot receiver. He was the first tight end in Big 12 history to catch 100 or more passes in a season and set the NCAA record at his position for yards receiving (1,352).
Still, he was the third tight end taken in the draft -- after Eric Ebron, who went 10th overall to Detroit, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was the sixth pick in the second round by Tampa Bay. That’s something that has Amaro motivated to show every other team what they missed out on.
"There’s a couple of guys that go in front of you for whatever reason," Amaro said. "I was the third-rated guy coming out of high school and ESPN didn’t even have me rated as a two-star. So, I think, me breaking the tight end record in college, I think I had the same chip on my shoulder going from high school to college.
"It’s big and I’m holding it in ... but I think eventually people are going to realize."
Amaro signed a four-year deal before practice, for about $4.3 million, and hopes to establish himself as a reliable target in Marty Mornhinweg’s offense for Geno Smith or Michael Vick. On Friday, he caught several passes, including one in which a defensive player got his hands on the ball but Amaro kept his grip as he fell to the ground.
"I don’t know how many balls he caught, but it was a bunch," Ryan said. "I was like, ‘Hmmm, looks like Marty thinks we’ve got a new toy and we’re trying to feature him."’
Amaro thinks the Jets will use him the way New England used former tight end Aaron Hernandez in various spots around the field. He also would like to model his game after Tony Gonzalez, and has set some pretty lofty goals for himself.
"I’m not going to say I’m going to catch 100 balls," he said, "but I think, for me, that’s going to be my goal every season, whether it’s five years or 10 years, to catch 100 balls on a consistent basis."
Pryor’s job during his three seasons at Louisville was to try to prevent tight ends and receivers from catching passes. He was nicknamed "Louisville Slugger" for his physical style, and it’s something that attracted Ryan and the Jets.
Pryor is likely to compete with Antonio Allen for the safety spot opposite Dawan Landry, and he’s well aware of the expectations.
"They brought me here for a reason," Pryor said. "With the 18th pick, I have to come in here and get respect from the older guys and the vets. I feel like I have to just earn their respect and earn everything. Right now, that’s what I’m focused on, just learning the system so I’ll be ready to go."
Pryor had seven interceptions, nine forced fumbles and 218 tackles at Louisville, clearly showing he has a nose for the ball. Although, as Ryan pointed out half-kiddingly, Pryor nearly had an interception during practice.
"I told him today, ‘You could have picked one today,"’ Ryan told Pryor. "’We’d be OK if we picked that ball. You don’t have to go hit somebody."’
Pryor has already reached out to Landry and Allen, as well as cornerbacks Dee Milliner, last year’s first-round pick, and Kyle Wilson to get some pointers about learning the Jets’ defense.
"All the guys have just been trying to make me learn the ropes early, just knowing what the secondary’s about and what we hold our standards to," Pryor said. "They’re just trying to get me on the right track and keep me going in the right direction."
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