What Will Ivan Pace Jr. Do for a Second Act?

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings came into last season thinking Brian Asamoah might take steps forward into a starting linebacker role. That never happened, and a guy they grabbed following the draft was a steal. What can Ivan Pace Jr. do in year two?

What Will Ivan Pace Jr. Do for a Second Act?

It will be pretty difficult for Ivan Pace Jr. to top the heights he reached in year one of his professional football career, but production could take another step forward. Going from undrafted to a starter and captain of the defense, Pace Jr. is going to be given everything he can handle in 2024 by defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

Ivan Pace Jr.
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Last season, Pace Jr. played 17 games, and drawing started in 11 of them. The undrafted rookie was nothing short of exceptional. Grabbing his first career interception and recording a pair of passes defended, he combined to rack up a whopping 102 tackles. He also grabbed 2.5 sacks, had two tackles for losses, and hit the quarterback nine times. To suggest he gave the Vikings what they had hoped for would be doing a disservice to the explosion he made on the scene.

Looking ahead to year two, it should be expected that Pace Jr. will be more comfortable and even further acclimated to Flores’ defense. He has shown a playstyle that fits incredibly well with what Kevin O’Connell’s defensive orchestrator wants to accomplish, and adding bulk to a frame that had him going undrafted was something that could take place over the offseason.

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Minnesota-native Blake Cashman will now join Pace Jr. at the linebacker position, and the two of them could help to anchor one of the better tandems across the league. Pace Jr. wasn’t just good for the Vikings, or by undrafted measures last year, but was truly an exceptional talent. For a defense still attempting to find its way and establish a strong identity, his next step could be an integral part of that process.

Pace Jr. will enter Week 1 as a starter this season, and how he can produce with no restrictions from the get-go should be fun to see. He already earned his way into good favor, and with a plethora of first-team reps coming through training camp and the preseason, he’ll be armed with a level of preparation that wasn’t available to him a season ago.

Coach Already a Hot
Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores takes over the team’s defense at an introductory press conference on February 15th, 2023, in Eagan, Minnesota.

It may be difficult to think of Pace Jr. reaching the same heights in the season ahead, but he has already unlocked plenty of new levels. How he produces and runs with the opportunity generated for himself is where the focus should be, and if his rookie season is any indication, then there’s no telling just how great of an impact he can make.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.