When the Tennessee Titans snagged Jace Amaro off waivers from the New York Jets last season, they probably did so based largely on the tight end’s receiving prowess he showed his rookie season.
But as Amaro quickly found out, in Tennessee, at least, the responsibility to block is just as a big a deal as catching the football – especially for the end line or second tight end.
Last season, Amaro sort of learned on the fly, played a couple of games as the receiving tight end when Delanie Walker was banged up, but mostly watched as Anthony Fasano and Phillip Supernaw were active on game days as the blocking tight end for the Titans.
Before the Titans lost Fasano in free agency to the Dolphins and before they spent a third-round pick on rookie Jonnu Smith of Florida International, the gauntlet was thrown down by head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie that if Amaro wanted to secure his spot on the roster and on the active list on Sundays in 2017, he would have to improve his skills as a run blocker.
To his credit, Amaro is taking the challenge head on during OTAs, working more as an end line tight end, and using some of his 6-5, 265 frame to open holes for the running backs.
In fairness, Amaro was a bit of a fish out of water when it came to blocking. Despite his size, he had always been a receiving tight end, having played in Texas Tech’s wide-open spread system in college. Then, after being a second-round pick of the Jets in 2014 and posting 38 catches as a rookie, he was shelved for the 2015 season with a shoulder injury. By the 2016 preseason, the Jets had pulled the plug, and the Titans grabbed him after after final cuts.
“I feel a lot better (about my blocking),” Amaro said. “It just took some time. I didn’t play my second year. Really I just had one year under my belt going into this past year. I’m really doing a lot of end line blocking, because I really didn’t do any of it in college. It’s just going to take some time.”
Amaro has been working to improve his blocking since joining the Titans, often staying after practice a few minutes to work with Fasano last year and observing how the veteran operated in games. The big thing, he says, is using the proper technique.
“I feel a lot better about my technique, and that’s really all it is. I’m strong enough and I’m big enough to block anybody. (Tight ends coach) Arthur Smith does a great job of teaching us fundamentals on that,” Amaro said.
Amaro said his weight is about the same as last year, but he has a more chiseled look, especially in the upper body.
“I’m about the same as I was last year, maybe just putting on a little more muscle, going from fat to muscle. I feel pretty good right now,” he said.
Amaro also is projecting the attitude and mindset of being a willing blocker.
“I think it’s 100 percent (an attitude). There’s not too many people that just want to block all day. It’s definitely something where you’ve got to be able to do it to play, and I’m willing to do it. Obviously, most of it is technique,” Amaro said. “You see a lot of smaller guys be able to block other guys. Sometimes big guys aren’t as good a blockers as other guys. It doesn’t really matter about size or strength. All that matters is that you want to do it and that you have good fundamentals and technique about it.”
So far Robiskie likes what he has seen from Amaro in his efforts to improve as a blocker. But the proof will come in training camp and preseason when the pads go on.
“I think as far as buying into it, he knows that’s something he’s got to do if he wants to play. If he wants to be on the field, that’s something he’s got to do,” Robiskie said. “It’s still early, because we don’t have pads on, but I think today he walks around knows, that’s my assignment, that’s me. That’s what I need to do to get the job done. I think he’s buying into it, but we’ll see what happens when the pads go on.”
For Amaro, it’s about daily improvement throughout the off-season, leading up to camp.
“Each day I”m getting better. I’m getting better every single practice, and that’s what OTAs are – getting ready, getting the plays down and getting ready to go into training camp. That’s when it’s really going to matter when we get the pads on,” Amaro said.
Injuries and absences
Veteran linebacker Brian Orakpo, safety Jonathan Cyprien, kick returner Eric Weems, linebacker Aaron Wallace and left guard Quinton Spain were all among the players who were not at Thursday’s OTA work on the practice field.
The workouts are voluntary, and the Titans did not disclose their whereabouts.
Several other players sat out practice with injuries. Those include defensive linemen Karl Klug (Achilles) and Sylvester Williams (ankle) and linebacker Kevin Dodd (foot), who were out Tuesday. Others not working on Thursday were tight end Tim Semisch, linebacker Johnny Ragin and defensive end Mehdi Abdesmad.