There is good news this week for the beleaguered Jets pass rush. Calvin Pace, who has racked up 2.5 sacks in his first six games back after breaking his right foot in the preseason, is feeling better than he has all season.
“The foot is good — 100 percent,” he told me this Thanksgiving week. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to say it felt this good this season. Even with the short week, I feel good.”
After Pace returned to action in Week 5 with a 1.5-sack performance against Brett Favre and the Vikings, he said that he didn’t think the foot would be 100 percent for the rest of the season. But the Jets medical staff did another wonderful job and when you coupled that with Pace’s diligent rehab work, the 6’4”, 265-pounder actually said the toughest part of his return was shaking off the rust.
“When you don’t play, you’re trying to get back out there and you’re trying to get into the flow of the game and you’re trying to get your eyes right to see different things,” he said. “It’s tough, man, and that’s anybody — I don’t care if it’s one game you miss.”
Jets fans are worried about a lack of pressure on opposition quarterbacks as the Green & White rank tied for 13th in sacks (21) and 17th in sacks per pass play. OLB Jason Taylor leads the way with four sacks, veteran DE Shaun Ellis has 3.5 and OLB Bryan Thomas has pitched in three.
“Every guy up here would like to have double-digit sacks, but that’s just not the case right now. We’re trying to get there and every game has different flows to it,” said Pace as the Jets finished up preparations for the Bengals. “Some people want to hit us with the quick game and some people keep more people in to protect.
“But the fact remains when we do get a chance to rush 1-on-1, we have to get there and guys have been working extra trying to work different moves and line games. We’re going to get better. It’s not going to happen overnight, but the key is to be good on first and second down, so third down you can just pin your ears back.”
Perhaps the strangest statistic for the defense this year has been its five-interception total, which ranks tied for 30th overall. A team that features the best CB duo in football in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie hasn’t had a theft in five games, but the home squad will have opportunities against Carson Palmer if it can bother him in the pocket.
“We have to affect Carson, get some hands in his face and pressure him so he’s not sitting back there like it’s 7-on-7,” said Pace.
“I think we get a lead and then we turn them loose,” added head coach Rex Ryan. “That’s something that we’ve got to really look at. We have excellent pass rushers led by Jason Taylor, Shaun Ellis, Trevor Pryce and Calvin Pace. That’s a pretty good group of pass rushers. Now we don’t always ask those guys to rush the passer — maybe we need to do more of that.”
The defenders are licking their chops to get back on the field after Sunday’s fourth-quarter breakdowns against the Texans. And you just get the sense that Pace, who combined for 15 sacks his first two seasons with the Jets, is poised to break through here soon.
“As the weeks keep going on, I feel like it’s coming,” he said. “I’m still waiting to go out there and have that big game. Hopefully Thursday, a primetime game, that will be the case.”
Update, 4 p.m.: Not many surprises on both teams’ final injury reports before Thursday night’s game.
The Jets have ruled both WR Jerricho Cotchery (groin) and CB Dwight Lowery (concussion) out for the game. T Damien Woody (knee) did not practice in today’s closed practice but is listed as questionable for the Bengals. CBs Drew Coleman (groin) and Marquice Cole (hamstring) are the Jets’ only other questionables, with the other 10 players on the report practicing full today and listed as probable.
The Bengals, who put three players on IR on Monday and Tuesday, are listing S Roy Williams (head) and DE Antwan Odom (wrist) as out. Starting CB Johnathan Joseph did not practice today but is listed as questionable. QB Carson Palmer (foot) practiced full and is probable.
Tags: Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals, Jason Taylor, Shaun Ellis
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