Pace Suspended 4 Games: Time to Step Up Vernon

When I was driving home from work today, I caught the end of a 20/20 update on 1050 AM which said “he will be suspended for Gang Green’s first four games.” I immediately flew into a panic, as I began to sweat out the next 20 minutes to hear who specifically would be suspended. Funny enough, while I was waiting I drove right by the new stadium and saw a huge sign advertising the Jets home opener against the Patriots. I couldn’t stop cursing as I figured with the Jets traditional luck, it was probably Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Darrelle Revis, Kris Jenkins, or maybe even or our brand new 60 million dollar quarterback.

Finally the 20 minutes passed and I heard it was Calvin Pace…bad news, but there are worse people that could have been suspended four games. Pace is being punished for using a banned substance which he claims was in an over the counter product he took. Really? With all the team doctors/nutritionists the Jets have employed, Pace couldn’t take the time to review what he was buying? A little common sense can go a long way.

Anyway, Pace is gone until the Jets week 5 Monday night game against the Dolphins. They will have to play the Texans, Patriots, Titans and Saints without their best outside linebacker. Yet, guess who is the Jets current top backup at outside linebacker? That’s right, last year’s 6th overall pick…Vernon Gholston. After a bust rookie season, the Jets need Gholston to show some signs of being the player they drafted him to be, now more than ever. Bryan Thomas is a decent starter at the other OLB spot but now Gholston has a chance to really seize a key role on the Jets defense.

Maybe this can be a blessing in disguise, since Pace’s suspension will basically force Gholston into the starting line-up. Maybe…if Gholston isn’t up to the challenge, Marques Murrell has showed strong potential and had a very good mini-camp. He finished last season ahead of Gholston on the depth chart and if Vernon doesn’t show signs of improvement in training camp and pre-season, Murrell could very well end up seizing the job. Also keep an eye on Jason Trusnik who played well in a limited role last season and will now be pushing for more time.

Bryan Thomas is also going to have to step up his play. He is now the Jets best OLB on the field for the first four games. He needs the play the way he did during 2006 and the first half of last season. With Pace suspended and Gholston, Murrell, and Trusnik still young/unproven, Thomas will be put in position to make plays.