Heading into this season, most observers saw Calvin Pace as the clear weak link of the New York Jets’ linebacking corps. After all, Pace is 33 years old and only managed to record 3 sacks last season, the third straight year in which his sack total declined. The Jets re-signed him to a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, hoping that he could hold down one of the outside linebacker spots for one more season.
However, Pace has done that and then some. He has blown away all expectations for him this season, and yesterday he recorded his eighth sack of the season, tying a career high. Pace has started every game, and he has 46 tackles and two forced fumbles to go with his strong sack numbers. With the young Quinton Coples still learning to play outside linebacker on the other side, it is Pace who has emerged as one of the Jets’ top pass rushing threats.
This surprising turn of events is something that the Jets could only have hoped for in their wildest dreams, and Pace’s play has been a huge asset to the defense. The Jets already have 36 sacks this season after having just 30 a year ago, and Pace’s improvement is a big reason for that. It is very rare that players can turn back the clock at the later stages of their career, but Pace is having one of the best seasons of his 11 year career. Even better, he is much more than just a situational pass rusher. Pace has started every game and played a higher percentage of snaps than any other outside linebacker, and he is a big part of the Jets’ 2nd ranked run defense.
The Jets are 6-7 and fighting for their playoff lives, and they are going to need their defense to play at the top of its game over the next three weeks. Pace has been a huge part of their solid defense this season, and he should continue to be for the rest of the stretch run. In a year that has seen many things go wrong for the Jets, Pace has been one of the most pleasant surprises, and he isn’t done making an impact yet.