Brett Favre isn’t the only new Jet in town. In fact, he might not even be the most important one.
The Jets began remodeling their team long before they traded for Favre in August. General manager Mike Tannenbaum acquired several big-name players early in the offseason, including defensive linemen Calvin Pace and Kris Jenkins, who were each paid big money to come to New York and improve the Jets’ run defense and pass rush.
So far, so good. The Jet defense has been a force this season, and Pace and Jenkins are two big reasons why.
Pace, whose signing was criticized by many due to his lack of previous production (aside from 2007, Pace had never really put together a good year) has been all over the field during the first five games. In Sunday’s game against the Bengals alone, Pace had a sack and a fumble recovery. He has 3.5 sacks in the Jets’ first five games.
Pace is an extremely difficult—if not impossible—blocking assignment for a lone offensive lineman. He is exceptionally quick, often beating his man around the end to get to the quarterback and rarely allowing a running back to reach the corner against him, yet he is also strong enough to drive smaller linemen backwards. Pace commands a double team against almost opponent.
But, with the way Kris Jenkins has been playing this year, it’s hard for opposing offenses to double team anybody else. Calvin Pace usually demands a double team—Kris Jenkins requires one.
Jenkins has adapted beautifully to the nose tackle position, preventing opposing teams from running up the middle and opening up opportunities for the Jets’ talented group of edge players (Pace, Shaun Ellis, and Bryan Thomas) to make plays out wide and against the passing game by drawing consistent double teams.
The former Carolina Panthers’ tackle looks like the All-Pro player he once was—and the player the Jets hoped he would once again become. He has contributed consistently throughout the 2008 season, even blocking a field goal in the first quarter of the Jets’ Week Four victory against the Cardinals—the block came when the game was still scoreless and was critical in helping the Jets to set the tone for what would end up being an easy victory.
The play of Pace and Jenkins has been particularly critical for the Jets due to the initial obstacles presented by the Favre acquisition. While Favre has already shown what he can do, he has also appeared rusty at times as he becomes more and more comfortable with the Jets’ playbook.
The Jets knew it would take Favre some time to play as well as he is capable of playing, and as a result there was even more pressure on the defense coming into the year to make sure the team won games that they would normally win with a fully up-to-speed quarterback.
This Sunday’s game was a perfect example: Favre had three turnovers, one of which was run back for a touchdown, yet the outcome of the game was never really in doubt because the defense allowed the Bengals’ offense to move the ball down the field only once during the entire game.
In that game, and during the season so far, Brett Favre was not the Jets’ most valuable new acquisition—that honor is shared by Calvin Pace and Kris Jenkins.
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