Calvin Pace: Breaking down his role on New York Jets in 2015
As he gets closer to 35 years of age and his 8th season in New York, Jets fans everywhere are wondering what Calvin Pace still has left in the tank. One of the first moves of this offseason for new general manager Mike Maccagnan was exercising the second-year option on Pace’s deal. The Jets had the option to either clear up close to $2 million in cap space by cutting him or pick up the second year on his contract, which they did.
On the same day, Maccagnan made the move to retain veteran Jason Babin under similar circumstances while sending running back Chris Johnson packing. New York also had to give both linebackers their $250,000 option bonuses that were due before March 10th. Given the fact that Gang Green decided to decline Johnson’s option, it is safe to say that Pace will be on the roster when Week 1 hits. There really wouldn’t be any point behind picking up his second year just to eventually cut him in August. The same can be said for Babin.
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Pace is coming off of a shaky 2014 campaign where he racked up 39 tackles (27 solo) to go along with 5 sacks. He also had 3 pass deflections on the year. As a starter that received over 75% of snaps, those aren’t considered to be impressive stats.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, he ranks 39th out of 46 players who received at least 25% of snaps at the outside linebacker position. Surprisingly, he finished one spot ahead of his teammate Quinton Coples who stood at 40.
Pace received an overall grade of -4.6 where a -7.6 as a pass rusher did most of the damage. If the Jets had not been so troubled at the cornerback position last year, Pace’s sack totals would have been significantly higher considering the fact that he would have had more time to rush the quarterback. In 2013, he finished with a career-high 10 sacks. It’s quite obvious that when corners do their job, it allows outside linebackers and defensive linemen to excel too.
On the plus side, Pace did receive positive grades in 2014 as a run stuffer (+1.2) and in coverage (+0.7). To cut the guy some slack, he was on the field over 75% of the time in a defensive unit that was probably on the field 75% of most games. This due in part to Gang Green’s abysmal offense. He also finished with the 11th-most snaps amongst outside linebackers with 843, which adds up to over 52 snaps per game. For a guy who was 34 years old last season, Pace was on the field way too much.
Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterbackCam Newton
(1) looks to pass as New York Jets outside linebackerCalvin Pace
(97) pressures in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
With guys like him and Babin in the system, you must have players who can rotate in and take snaps away from them. Ever since the departures of Bryan Thomas and Aaron Maybin, the Jets have not been flexible at outside linebacker whatsoever. The selection of Louisville standout Lorenzo Mauldin in the 3rd round of this year’s draft should certainly help that cause, however.
In 2015-16, Pace’s role will be reduced drastically in head coach Todd Bowles’ defense. One reason why is simply because he will turn 35 years old in October. Experience is very meaningful, but don’t be surprised to see the younger Mauldin start in Week 1, despite his raw ability and transition into a 3-4 outside linebacker. Even with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back in green and white, it still isn’t a piece of cake for a 35-year old to get to the quarterback.
For now, expect Pace to rotate opposite Coples with the likes of Mauldin and Babin. Guys in Trevor Reilly and IK Enemkpali may see the field a bit this year as well, but they’ll be fighting for a roster spot until September arrives. On top of that, they only have one year under their belts opposed to Pace who is entering his 13th. From a camp casualty standpoint, the two sophomores are without a doubt lower on the food chain. If someone is getting cut this summer, it is most likely going to be Reilly or Enemkpali.
Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; xxNew York Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace (97) reacts in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The addition of Leonard Williams plays another factor into Pace’s role this season. With Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, and Sheldon Richardson already manning the defensive line in head coach Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme, look for Williams to be featured in many 4-3 and 5-2 packages on 3rd down. In a 4-3 look, Coples can play the position he played at UNC as a defensive end while Wilkerson, Richardson, and Williams line up alongside him.
Linebackers in a 4-3 defense need to be able to drop back in coverage, making there no true fit for Pace in that approach. The trio of linebackers in that scenario would probably be David Harris, Demario Davis, and the newly-acquired Erin Henderson. In a 5-2, Coples and the more explosive Mauldin can play on the ends while the “Sons of Anarchy” or two of them along with Williams make up the interior. In this case, the two linebackers will of course be Harris and Davis due to their great range in pass coverage. With that being said, Pace should only be on the field on 1st and 2nd down. If you see him on the field on 3rd down, Bowles is most likely bringing the house.
If there is one thing that Pace has over the rest of the outside linebackers on the roster, it is veteran leadership. Regardless of his role, he is still without a doubt the captain of this core. Even if he plays a mere 4 snaps per game, there are things that he can teach the youngsters that a guy like Coples cannot. As a 12-year veteran, Pace has picked up on a lot over the course of his career, so it will only benefit guys like Mauldin, Reilly, and Enemkpali to have him in the locker room. The Jets won’t get a double-digit sack season out of Pace this year, but what they will get is a player with experience and one who will contribute nonetheless.
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