Rain coming down in buckets is not necessarily a spring rarity in New York. But after calling Arizona home for his first five pro seasons, it was a new occurrence for Calvin Pace.
"I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I've practiced in the rain," the linebacker said after a recent Jets OTA. "It's different and not something I'm used to, but I did it before in college. It's cool."
Pace, a Wake Forest product who was one of the Green & White's prized acquisitions in the free agency/trading period, still has wings but is a Jet instead of a Cardinal. And in an effort to keep up with his new club's defensive installations, he's attempted to prepare his flight plan always a day ahead of schedule.
"Like today, I tried to get the install yesterday. So when they're going over things, I'll get it a little quicker," he said Thursday. "I'm getting live reps. It's easy to be in the classroom and be on point, but when you come out here and you've got Pro Bowl guys like Bubba Franks coming at you and when Laveranues or J-Co are coming at you, it might be a little difficult, but it's progressing."
After excelling last year with career highs in sacks (6.5) and tackles (98) in the Cards' 3-4, Pace sees similarities in the New York front. But there are stark communication differences.
"The difference is here there are a lot more checks. There is a lot more verbiage and a lot more guys talking," he said. "And you've got the music going, so they're really putting you in a game-type environment, so that's good. Sometimes with a guy like me whose mind is already racing and I can't hear and you've got five people talking — that's when you have to focus in."
Prior to last season, Pace played primarily a defensive end role in 'Zona while compiling 7.5 sacks and 84 tackles in 51 games. The full-time move to OLB allowed him to wreak havoc from the outside instead of combating a big offensive tackle on the line of scrimmage.
"What makes it better for me is it's sometimes a matchup thing. It's hard to go out and play against the D'Brickashaws and the Damien Woodys," he said. "You play outside linebacker on a running back and the matchup is different. That's where the game is played — on matchups."
Pace estimated that he dropped into coverage 50 percent of the time during the '07 campaign.
"I'm not going to say a jack of all trades, but I try to do everything well. It's easy to go out there to be a pass rusher but you're a liability in coverage," he said. "It's easy to go out there and be great in coverage but you can't rush the passer. So I try to be solid in every area."
One aspect of the Jets' defense that is apparent in the spring is that they'll be a much bigger unit in 2008.
Kris Jenkins, who is 6'4" and 360 pounds, takes over for 6'1", 310-pound Dewayne Robertson at the critical nose position. Also on the inside, David Harris (6'2", 243) is entrenched at MLB after starring in place of the injured and since departed Jonathan Vilma (6'1," 230).
Then there's Pace, who at 6'4" and 270, occupies the role filled by Victor Hobson the past two seasons. Hobson (6'0", 252) will actually play at inside 'backer in the Patriots' 3-4.
The Jets have not only changed their personnel but dramatically changed the way they'll appear to opposing offenses.
"This 3-4 is a little bit more traditional as far as guys two-gapping. In Arizona, we didn't necessarily have the guys up front to hold the two-gap — they weren't necessarily big enough," he said. "It kind of looked like a 4-3 but it was 3-4 principals, so not too much two-gapping."
Pace has seen a lot of differences at his new home. And just like a quick downpour, he hopes the transition process will be brief and there are plenty of sunny days ahead.
"I'm not there yet. I'm not even close," he said. "But I'm getting there."