Packers’ DT Mike Daniels ready to talk and play in 2013
By Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
~GREEN BAY — Mike Daniels might not be exactly what you want as a defensive lineman.
There simply aren’t very many guys 6 feet 0 1/2 inches and 301 pounds who line up where he does on Sundays.
When positioned along the line, he’s a relative misfit, a rook stationed among an imposing front line of knights, queens and bishops, all of whom can advance with far more majesty than the squatty guy from New Jersey.
Make a move, however, and everything changes. Daniels will pursue his opponent to all ends of the field, and well after play has stopped he’ll still be in motion.
Maybe he hasn’t reached his objective as much as he would like since the Green Bay Packers selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. But he’s exactly what you want in a football player.
“You can’t help but love that kid,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “He just works hard and doesn’t say anything. He just wants to do it the right way.”
Well, the doesn’t-say-anything part isn’t exactly accurate. Unlike a year ago, when he assumed his rookie station in the locker room hierarchy, Daniels came back with gums a-flappin’.
Besides being colorful and engaging, he has had a couple of verbal eruptions on the practice field that have gotten people’s attention. Daniels can’t stand it when his side of the ball doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, and it has led to some pretty intense tongue-lashings.
“Football means a lot to Mike, so he doesn’t like it when something bad (happens),” Trgovac said. “Training camp, one day the offense looks good and we look like crap, and one day they don’t look so good. Mike’s always one of those guys who if we don’t look good, he’s always going to be fired up.”
Daniels got this far by always being that way. He was a statistical and vocal leader of the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2011 and showed his devotion to the team when he played in a 31-14 loss to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl two weeks after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder.
He underwent surgery a few weeks later and wasn’t able to do the kind of strength training he wanted or perform at full strength before the draft. The Packers still liked his potential as an inside pass rusher and took a chance.
Daniels missed a week of training camp because of a knee injury and was forced to wear a bulky harness all of last season. He managed just 19 tackles and two sacks in 16 games, including playoffs.
“Last year I was coming off an injury,” Daniels said. “I had a lot of that bad weight and didn’t really have…I had good strength but I didn’t have the strength I know I can have.
“Then being able to move. I blew a tire in camp. I wasn’t playing football for so long, my body wasn’t used to the different kind of movements, taking on guys and things like that.”
Daniels finally shed the harness after the season and went to work regaining the strength that made him such a difficult guy for opposing Big Ten teams to handle. He came to camp at 301, about 10 pounds more than he weighed the year before, only with far more muscle.
“I’ve had an off-season to get stronger and gain more weight, get faster, get quicker, lose some fat, add some more muscle,” Daniels said. “Get smarter, watch a lot of tape, take it all in. Rookie season is all behind me. Nothing is new to me.
“I practiced against some of the greatest: Jeff Saturday, Josh Sitton. I’ve been around the best: B.J. Raji and some freak athletes like Mike Neal. There’s nothing that shocks me now. All the wow factor is gone.”
Despite the Packers’ desire to have their ends be tall and lengthy, Daniels is getting turns on the outside of the three-man defensive line. He is still learning how to adapt his skills to the required objectives in coordinator Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, but he’s far ahead of where he was last season.
Where the Packers really hope he can help is in nickel situations when they go to two defensive linemen and Daniels can rush from an inside position. He’s built for power, and between the tackles is where his barrel chest and bulging arms can do the most harm.
As he’s shown at times, his compact frame can be difficult to block, especially when he stays low and gets underneath the pads of his opponent. Once he gets his powerful hands onto a lineman’s chest, he can walk him back to the quarterback in speedy fashion.
Trgovac is on him to keep his pads down and make sure he uses leverage to win, because in the Packers scheme, defensive linemen have to be able to take on double-teams and not get rooted out. That happened to Daniels last year, and if he’s going to be on the field more, he has to play the run effectively.
“When you’re more familiar with something, you know how to mold it to your liking, to your style,” Daniels said. “That’s what I’ve improved. When you’re a young guy, you’re like, ‘I have to do it exactly this way on the dot every time.’
“When you’re older you’re more comfortable, you’re in your own groove. You can put your own spin to it. I know I have to go here, but how can I do it that best suits my strength?”
Daniels is competing with first-round pick Datone Jones and veterans C.J. Wilson, Johnny Jolly and Mike Neal for a position in the defensive line rotation. Capers and Trgovac like to keep their guys fresh up front, so Daniels will get a chance to prove he’s big enough for the job.
The vocal part will continue no matter what.
“That’s not just Mike Daniels on the field, that’s Mike Daniels off the field, ” said rookie cornerback Micah Hyde, who played three seasons with Daniels at Iowa. “He’s the loudest person I’ve ever met. But that’s what makes Mike, Mike. He’s an intense guy. That’s the type of person you need on your team.”
It may be the kind of person the Packers really need on theirs. They have lacked fiery players with the drive to back it up on their defense, and Daniels appears ready to provide it.
“I just try to find reasons to get mad,” he said. “It’s just the way I play. Not everybody plays that way. That’s always helped me. I look for reasons to try to bring it out. It’s not everybody’s game. Shoot, some guys do great and (are) laughing about it when they do it. They’ll smile and rub your head into the dirt.”
Not Daniels. He doesn’t have time. He’s already on to the next play.
Original story HERE