This is part two of a four-part series that will analyze the four most intriguing Packers players going into the 2014 season. We will now look at Mike Daniels.
It is hard to say that Cullen Jenkins’ exit was the sole cause of the lack of consistent pass rush in recent seasons, but he was definitely a force as an interior defender. The majority of Packers fans thought that losing Jenkins was a huge blow to the pass rush and defense as a whole.
However, it looks like the Packers may have finally found Jenkins’ replacement.
Mike Daniels showed some flashes during his rookie season in 2012, but he really exploded onto the scene in 2013. He excelled when he played the three-technique defensive tackle position in the nickel and dime packages (film analysis on this below). His 6.5 sacks and pressures are impressive, but he also played the run well.
Daniels plays with great leverage, has a terrific “punch” and uses his hands very well against the run and when rushing the passer.
When studying his 2013 tape, it is evident how disruptive he is. This article will feature examples of two running plays and two passing plays where Daniels was disruptive. First, we will look at what he can do against the run.
Here is a play against the Eagles in Week 10. The Packers were in their nickel defense, and Daniels (No. 76 and the red arrow) lined up at the three-technique defensive tackle spot (outside shoulder of the guard). His responsibility was the strong side B gap.
The Eagles ran an outside zone running play with LeSean McCoy in the backfield. The left guard tried to reach block Daniels (red arrow), but Daniels initiated contact with his hands to the chest of the left guard, “locked out” his arms and knocked the guard back, which allowed A.J. Hawk (yellow arrow) to penetrate untouched to take down McCoy.
When defending a running play that involves zone blocking, the key is penetration, and Daniels single-handedly destroyed this run.
The next play is from the Week 2 game against the Redskins. The Packers were in their nickel defense, and Daniels (red arrow) was lined up again at the three-technique defensive tackle spot (B gap responsibility).
The Redskins ran a toss play with zone blocking, which was designed for running back Alfred Morris to cut back toward the middle. Once again, Daniels single-handedly disrupted the play.
The right guard and center tried to reach block Daniels in order to get to the second level (linebackers). However, they did not even touch inside linebacker Brad Jones, because Daniels knocked the right guard back and then split the center and right guard’s block.
In addition to splitting the block, Daniels made the tackle himself. Due to his penetration, Morris had no cutback lane, which immediately ended the play. It is very rare in the NFL to see an offensive line not gain access to the second level, and in this case, Daniels was the cause of their inability to do that.
Now, we will look at two plays when he rushed the passer in the nickel and dime.
The first play is from the Week 16 game against the Steelers. The Packers were in their nickel, and Daniels (red arrow) was lined up in a 2i technique (inside shade of the guard).
This play by Daniels was another example of his exceptional ability to use his hands. At the snap, he engaged the guard and then executed a pass-rush move that looked similar to the “push, pull” technique. In other words, he started out like he was bull rushing but then grabbed the guard, tossed him aside and forced Roethlisberger to throw an incompletion.
Daniels almost recorded a sack, but his pressure caused a dangerous pass. This is one piece of proof that Daniels will demand double teams most of the time next year.
The second and final pass rush play is from the Week 12 game against the Vikings. The Packers were in their dime defense, and Daniels was lined up again as a 3-technique defensive tackle (circled in red).
At the snap, Daniels was immediately double teamed by the center and left guard. However, with his high motor, he was relentless. He eventually performed a “swim” move on the center and flushed Christian Ponder out of the pocket, which led to a sack by Clay Matthews. This was the prototypical “won’t show up in the stat sheet” play for Mike Daniels.
Again, these are just four plays out of many that demonstrate Daniels' ability. Going into his third year, he will likely play in every package (3-4, nickel, and dime).
When Johnny Jolly was injured, Daniels stepped in and played some as the five-technique defensive end (outside shade of the tackle) in the 3-4, but his best fit would probably be the three-technique defensive end spot. His presence against the run and impactful interior pass rush are very valuable for this defense, and the expectation is that he will continue to improve.
Daniels seems to always be “hungry”, and he has a “can’t be denied” mindset, which is what this defense needs.
Thanks for reading, Packers fans. Follow me on Twitter at @RobertOlson92 for daily analysis on the Packers.
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