It's been a long career of quarterback hunting for Calvin Pace to get this close to his personal version of Ahab's great white whale.
"Ten sacks," the 11th-year linebacker said, savoring the two words in relation to his season. "It's been something I've always shot for. It just hasn't happened for whatever reason. But that'd be a great thing."
The reason Pace was questioned about 10 sacks today is because with one of the two sacks of Carolina's Cam Newton on Sunday, Calvin moved not only to a career-high nine for the season but also within one of that very tantalizing double-digit number.
Rex Ryan is all over it, which is why the head coach called out his most senior Jet said at today's news conference at the Atlantic Health Training Center.
"Calvin's playing as good now as he ever has," Ryan said. "We've asked him to play several roles and he's accepted all of them. He's gotten better as a pass rusher. His play, it's been super. Hopefully he'll be able to get that 10th sack. That would be a little cherry on top because you want to get those double digits."
Another one who's noticed is DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who's already at a team-leading 10.0 sacks for his first double-digit season.
"It's been great playing out there with Calvin," Wilkerson said. "He's a great leader we have in this locker room and on the field. He's playing some great ball."
What's just as impressive as Pace possibly reaching 10 QB traps for the year is Pace and Wilkerson possibly reaching that figure together. You see, technically, the Jets have never had two 10-sack sackers in the same season.
That's because sacks became an official statistic only in 1982 and the last time the Jets had two for 10, it was Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau, who did it back-to-back in 1980 and '81.
"Darn. That just shows we're making steps," said Wilkerson, impressed with that bit of Jets historical trivia.
"Wow, that'd be great," said Pace. "I didn't know it was that long since we'd done it. I would've figured Shaun [Ellis] and [John] Abraham would've had that. That would be big, man."
Calvin's sure not counting 10 sacks as in the bank yet. Heck, it took him eight years and 14 games to get to nine. And Wilkerson knows all about the vicissitudes of sackdom, since he racked up his 10 in the season's first 11 games but, despite continued pocket pressure, has gone sackless the last three games.
"I'm in a fortunate situation where I really do play with some very good players," Pace praised. "When I'm beside a guy like Muhammad or Sheldon [Richardson], it's easy because those guys draw a certain amount of attention. They're really not looking for an old man going in there and making a play. But I've been fortunate and very blessed to have the opportunity to come back this year."
Pace was on an emotional roller-coaster for a while after being released in February, then re-signing in April. He said nobody wants to get cut "but I just had an opportunity to come back to where I really wanted to be. There's no hard feelings. It happens."
He thanks his teammates for putting him in this position but also said that Rex Ryan returning to the defensive meeting room has helped him, as has the tutelage of DL coach Karl Dunbar and the Ryan/Dennis Thurman scheme that's been emphasizing a bit more four-man rush than it used to.
But after all the thanks and the aw-shuckses, Pace and Wilkerson, the newest dynamic duo in franchise sack history, sound confident that against Cleveland on Sunday or at Miami to wrap up the season the following week, No. 10 will come to No. 97.
"I know he's going to get that one," said Wilkerson.
"Let's not stop at 10," said Pace. "Let's get 12."
Here are the top five one-two sack punches in Jets history since 1971, including Wilkerson/Pace. (Sacks became official in 1982. *Totals through 14 games):