Calvin Pace benefiting from young D-line

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
7:25
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- As the Jets have beefed up their defensive line with continuous first-round selections, it's helped Calvin Pace get back to his pass-rushing ways of the past.

"I’ve gotten a chance to actually focus in on it now. I’m playing with great players up front, it’s easier for me," Pace said. "[I’ve been paying] more attention to detail. Obviously in this league it’s all about sacks. It took me 10 years to really realize that. I’ve put more work into it and it's paying off."

[+] EnlargeCalvin Pace
Al Pereira/New York Jets/Getty ImagesCalvin Pace needs one more sack to set a new career high.
Pace has already matched his career high in sacks with eight, which he previously notched in 2009. After three down years in terms of sacks, as he registered just 13 the previous three seasons, Pace has secured his third season with at least seven sacks with the Jets.

"When you’re playing with young talent like Sheldon [Richardson], [and] Muhammad [Wilkerson] is having a great year, Quinton [Coples] -- I’m not going to say it’s easy, but they have to focus in on somebody and more times it’s not me," Pace said. "I’m left with some one-on-ones so it’s about capitalizing and making plays."

In his first two years with the Jets, Pace registered a combined 15 sacks. After posting his career high in 2009, his numbers slipped in each consecutive season, bottoming out at three sacks last year. With Pace's diminishing play, the Jets cut him in February but ultimately re-signed him to a one-year deal.

This season, the Jets have scaled back Pace's role, and it seems he's been more effective. He said he's rushed the passer more than he has in the past, although he rushed plenty last season, and has been able to get home more often. His eight sacks rank second on the team to Muhammad Wilkerson.

Pace acknowledged that the Jets releasing him galvanized him some.

"Yes and no. You play this game long enough you'll get cut. That played into it and the fact -- I'm man enough to realize last year wasn't my best work. I had some deficiencies in my game I needed to strength and be able to do better, which is pass rush," Pace said. "Type of league it is now, it's pass, pass, pass, got to have guys be able to put pressure on the quarterback. ... It's a situation where I had to go get better, and I'm not great at it but I feel more comfortable."

Pace will be a free agent at season's end and said he believes he can still contribute for two or three more years, provided it's in the right situation. He'd like to stick with the Jets, if possible.

"In a perfect world, I'd like to retire a Jet," Pace said.

Matt Ehalt

ESPN New York contributor

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