Calvin Pace’s play has been talked up by Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine lately, with both saying they believe the linebacker is having the best season in Ryan’s time as the Jets’ head coach.
Pace is tied with fellow linebacker Aaron Maybin for the team sack lead with three and his 36 combined tackles ranks fourth on the Jets. The biggest thing in his eyes is simple: he hasn’t been forced to sit out the first quarter of the season as he has the previous two years.
Two years ago, he was suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. A year ago, he broke his foot in the preseason. Still, he’s reluctant to say he’s playing at a higher level than he had the past two seasons.
“If don’t know if it’s the best,” Pace said this afternoon. “It just seems that way since I’m starting out [with everyone]. First year, I was suspended for four games and then the second year had a foot injury. So I guess it would seem like it’s the best since it’s the first time they’ve had me from the beginning of the season.
“It’s Ok. I always think I can do better, but it never hurts when your head coach and your defensive coordinator think you’re doing well. So I’ll take it.”
Yesterday, Ryan praised Pace's play in Sunday's 27-21 win over the Chargers.
"Calvin Pace was a monster in that game," he said. "He was physical in the way he was rushing the passer, setting the edge. Calvin, I think, is having the best year he’s had since I’ve been here. I don’t think it’s even close. So he’s really doing a tremendous job for us."
Pace often downplays the pain he was experiencing following his return last season, even though Ryan has said Pace wasn’t totally healed and the injury nagged him all year. But he admits he’s feeling much better now than he was a season ago, and it’s helped return his peace of mind when he’s on the field.
“It makes all the difference in the world when you can go out there, and being able to just play and not have to worry about injuries,” Pace said. “Like I said before, just being able to start the season off has helped me, instead of having to play catch up to everybody when everybody is kind of getting into their form, and I’m just now getting started.
“So just being on the field itself has helped me.”