It’s not often that a player has the best season of career at age 33, but that’s exactly what the next player on our list of the top 25 New York Jets did. Outside linebacker Calvin Pace recorded a career high 10 sacks for the Jets last season to go with 53 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Pace’s performance was rewarded with a two year, $5 million contract, and the Jets will be hoping that he can continue his strong play.
Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect Pace to record double digit sacks again next season, especially since he only had 13 sacks in the previous three seasons combined. The Jets rush Quinton Coples on nearly every down, as Rex Ryan is more comfortable giving Pace the responsibility to drop into coverage when the Jets only rush four out their base defense. Furthermore, the return of pass rush specialist Antwan Barnes from a torn ACL could lead to Pace being taken off the field in obvious passing situations more often than he was last season.
However, Pace’s contributions are not just as a pass rusher. He is very reliable against the run, and he was an important part of the Jets’ third ranked run defense. Pace also brings plenty of experience and knowledge to the table, something that is very useful as Coples continues to make the adjustment from defensive end to outside linebacker.
Going forward, it is safe to expect Pace to decline this season. He is simply a placeholder at outside linebacker until the Jets can find a long term answer at the position. Until that time comes however, Pace will play a significant role on the defense, and the Jets are hoping that he can produce at close to the same level he did last season. The Jets have lacked an elite pass rushing linebacker throughout Ryan’s tenure, but if Pace can come up with six or seven sacks while providing solid run defense the Jets would be very happy.
Ranking him this high may be a bit of an overreaction to last season’s success, but there is still no doubt that Pace remains a more than serviceable player as he enters his 12th season, and he is certainly deserving of a spot among the Jets’ best players.
Previously: No. 25 Bilal Powell, No. 24 Kenrick Ellis, No. 23 Geno Smith, No. 22 Dawan Landry, No. 21 Jeff Cumberland, No. 20 Antonio Allen, No. 19 Quinton Coples, No. 18 Calvin Pryor, No. 17 Michael Vick, No. 16 Willie Colon, No. 15 Dee Milliner