Calvin Pace, the New York Jets' resident curmudgeon, doesn't get excited about too many things. Two exceptions: He probably did a back flip upon hearing that training camp wouldn't be in Cortland, New York -- he hated the whole sleep-away thing -- and he sounded genuinely pumped about the team's revamped secondary.
"Obviously, it's a passing league and you have to have a lot of corners to compete," the veteran linebacker said. "We got 'em now. We've got no more excuses. We've got to go out and make it happen."
No more excuses. Maybe the defensive players should adopt that as their 2015 slogan and get it printed on a T-shirt.
After an offseason spending spree, the Jets have a secondary that, on paper, has pieces that fit together. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are the No. 1 and No. 2 corners, respectively. Buster Skrine will man the slot. Calvin Pryor is back to his natural position, strong safety. Marcus Gilchrist is the free safety.
Think back to how it looked a year ago: They had a No. 2 corner in the No. 1 slot (Dee Milliner), a nickelback into the No. 2 position (Dimitri Patterson), a career underachiever in the nickel (Kyle Wilson) and two strong safeties, Pryor and Dawan Landry.
We know how it turned out: Patterson went AWOL and Milliner blew out his Achilles', leaving a patchwork group for then coach Rex Ryan. By the end of the season, he was starting Darrin Walls and Marcus Williams at cornerback -- a career backup and an undrafted rookie, respectively. (As an aside, it's worth noting coach Todd Bowles singled out Walls and Williams last week as spring standouts. He praised their "very consistent" approach and "very good" instincts. It's interesting that he lauded two players deemed spare parts by Ryan & Co.). Somehow, they finished No. 6 in total defense, quite possibly the most deceiving ranking ever.
Anyway, back to Pace, who has seen a lot of good defense over his seven seasons with the Jets. The best was 2009, when the Revis-led unit finished No. 1 in most of the major statistical categories. Cromartie arrived in 2010, and they finished No. 3 in total defense. Pace longs for those days and he believes the return of Revis and Cromartie could make it happen.
"I just feel like this is the place they needed to be and the place they wanted to be," he said. "I'm not trying to speak for them, but when everyone was here, it was a beautiful thing. To some degree, everybody wants to get back to that."