In just his first 12 games of his rookie season, un-drafted Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. has emerged as one of the best young linebackers in the league. Showcasing his exceptional skills in both pass rushing and run-stopping, Pace’s ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game has quickly turned heads across the league.
Pace had one of his best games of the year last week when Minnesota hosted and lost to the Bears in an NFC North matchup. Although the Vikings did eventually end up losing this game, Pace was one of the few bright spots. In this game, Pace led the team with nine tackles, added one sack, and one tackle for loss (TFL). His ability to disrupt opposing offenses and make key stops was on full display, earning him even more recognition as one of the Vikings top defenders.
What sets Pace apart from his rookie counterparts is his versatility. Whether it’s pressuring the quarterback or blowing up running plays, he consistently demonstrates a well-rounded skill set that you just don’t see out of many first-year linebackers. The Vikings’ coaching staff clearly recognizes his potential, entrusting him with significant responsibilities on the field, including taking over the “green dot” while Jordan Hicks remains out with a leg injury. When a player on the defense has the green dot, he is responsible for relaying the play calls from his defensive coordinator and making real-time adjustments with the opposing offense. Impressive stuff from the undrafted rookie thus far.
Pro Football Focus (PFF), a renowned analytic platform, recently gave Pace a commendable grade of 70.9 throughout the season so far. This places him in a tie for 8th among rookie defenders this season, highlighting the impact he has made in just a short time. Such recognition from PFF highlights not only his individual contributions but also his importance to the team’s overall defensive success.
Pace’s journey from being undrafted to becoming a standout player for the Vikings speaks volumes about his work ethic and determination. His dedication to refining his craft has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in his rapid development. As the season progresses, it will be intriguing to see how Pace continues to make his mark in the league and solidify his position as one of the game’s best young inside linebackers.