One of the NFL’s breakout players of 2013 was Packers’ defensive tackle Mike Daniels. Despite only playing 48% of the defensive snaps last year, the second year lineman broke onto the scene with 6.5 sacks and 23 tackles and served as a silver lining to an otherwise up-and-down season for the Green Bay defense.
Following the 2012 NFL Draft, Ted Thompson and the Packer brass took some criticism for drafting Daniels in the fourth round with the 132nd overall pick. Scouts regarded him as undersized for his position (6’0″, 291 pounds), and predicted struggles against bigger blockers and double teams. Since his draft day, Daniels has bulked up to over 300 pounds and used his quickness and non-stop energy and tenacity to prove the experts wrong over his first, two years in the league.
The 24-year old Daniels has also started assuming more of a leadership role heading into his third season, despite his relative youth on the defensive side of the ball. During the off-season he said, “I’m not afraid to step up as a leader now. I’m in my third year. Ive made some plays. I’ve earned some respect in the locker room. I feel as though it’s time for me to fully let my personality go. Just be myself. There’s nothing holding me back now. I’m a young guy, but I’m considered a vet and vets can speak.”
Daniels went on to talk about how the Packers’ defense needs to get meaner. “I think that’s been our biggest problem on defense,” Daniels said. “So I’m personally going to really get the best out of everybody. I don’t care if I have to hit somebody before we get on the field.” An attitude like this, if it flows down to the rest of the defense, could mean big things for Dom Capers’ squad in 2014.
After a solid sophomore season, it’s a no-brainer that Daniels should get increased playing time – especially with the Packers not resigning Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly. If he can be viewed as an every-down lineman rather than one who only fits into the nickel or dime packages, it’s safe to assume that we can expect a nice jump in statistics as well. If he can improve on last year’s numbers, Daniels could find himself in the Pro Bowl come January – unless the Packers make their way back to the Super Bowl, of course.