Today, the NFL announced that starting Jets OLB Calvin Pace will be suspended for the first four games of the NFL season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He will be eligible to return to the team on Monday, October 5th, and he will begin serving the suspension prior to week one.
Here are the games he will miss.
Week 1: at Houston
Week 2: vs New England
Week 3: vs Tennessee
Week 4: at New Orleans
Looking at the schedule, could Pace have picked a worse time in the season to be suspended? Houston, New England, and New Orleans have three of the most potent offenses in the NFL, and Tennessee has one of the best running games in the NFL!
Pace started off 2008 with a bang, but he's starting off 2009 busted. As a result, Vernon Gholston will have to step up and take a bigger role right from the start. It's hard to have any expectations for Gholston as a starter since he barely played at all last year. Rex Ryan has faith in him. We'll see if it's justified, or if Jason Trusnik and Marques Murrell take the bulk of the playing time. Trusnik was one of the few bright spots down the stretch last year.
The Jets do have decent depth at linebacker, but it's unproven depth. Gholston, Murrell, and Trusnik have all been impressive at times in practice and preseason (well, maybe not Gholston), but none of them have gotten extensive time on the field to show their skills. Clearly, that's about to change, although there's always the possibility that a veteran is signed for insurance. The first four games are important for Ryan's defense to prove they can play as well as they can talk. The Jets may feel like they can't risk starting such a question mark in such an important position for 25% of the season.