Calvin Pace is a smooth athlete who appears to make things happen in an effortless fashion. After racking up a career-high seven sacks in his first season with the Jets, Pace visited Turks and Caicos southeast of the Bahamas and had a successful time deep-sea fishing.
"I caught triggerfish, a couple of groupers and some snapper. Stuff anybody can do — it's easy, man," Pace told newyorkjets.com recently during a media locker room session. "If you go to certain islands, you just go by the reef and you can just throw your line out there. Anybody can catch them. There isn't any strategy to it."
At 6'4" and 270 pounds, the 28-year-old outside linebacker is in the prime of his career and should benefit from the Jets' hiring of head coach Rex Ryan. Pace has been impressed by what he's seen thus far from Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
"I think they are real down-to-earth people who want to come in here and win championships," he said. "I've always been a fan of what Baltimore does, just in terms of how they put players in the right places. They basically put anybody out there and make it work, and obviously I think guys like playing for him so that makes it a lot easier, too. I think it's a good fit for everybody."
Even though this will mark the third defensive system in three years for Pace, he is not discouraged in the least bit. He sees some carryover from what the Jets ran last year under Eric Mangini in terms of dropping and terminology. And in addition to studying the new playbook, he can turn the video on and watch how Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs (30.5 sacks the past three seasons) actually played on the field.
"I look at the book, walk through it and then try to put myself where Suggs might be playing. I'm looking at what he's doing, and then the transition is a lot easier because they got Bart [Scott], Marques Douglas and Jim Leonhard," he said. "If there is something I might not understand, I can go to any of them."
The Jets will be anything but vanilla next season. Ryan will bring the heat, but he'll also overload fronts and create perceived pressure. Throughout the past decade, the Ravens have succeeded not only by playing a physical, relentless brand of football but also by making it extremely difficult for opponents to establish presnap comfort.
"They do so may different things and have so many different fronts," Pace said. "I was watching them on tape and its like 'What is that?' It looks unconventional. What they do well from the jump is you see one thing and you're like 'I don't what that is.' Then as the play goes on, everybody fits in."
After spending his first five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Pace signed with the Jets last March and made a seamless transition to New York. He tied for the club lead with five forced fumbles, his 67 tackles ranked fourth amongst Jets defenders, and he was also credited with nine QB hurries. Pace will return to the field for the first time in 2009 from Thursday through Saturday when Ryan leads the Jets' vets in a voluntary minicamp.
"It's kind of like studying for a test. You have a lot of material to study for, but you get into it and apply yourself, sit down and allow some time. It's not bad. Mistakes are going to happen but that's what minicamp, OTAs and training camp are for," he said. "Before long it will be just like I was playing last year for a while, just knowing it."
Pace, a Wake Forest product who is only one of three Demon Deacons to have been drafted in the first round (18th overall in 2003), will likely welcome a pair of Deacs — LB Aaron Curry and CB Alphonso Smith — to that select fraternity a week from Saturday.
"I think both of those guys will have great careers. I watched them from the time they got there," he said. "You can always see a guy that just has 'it' and it's hard to explain. You can always tell and I think those guys will do well. They have a couple of other guys who will get drafted, but I'm looking forward to seeing them play — hopefully not in this division unless they're with us."
With the Jets' veterans back on the field, Pace will probably put his fishing pole down for a little while. The plans for the fall hunting season are under way and opposition quarterbacks loom as prey.