FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Mike Daniels, defensive line
Season stats: 17 games (553 snaps); 28 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 27 quarterback hurries, four tackles for loss, two missed tackles
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 22.4 (ranked No. 1 on Packers defense; ranked No. 6 in the entire NFL among 3-4 defensive linemen)
Best game: Week 8 win at Minnesota (32 of 49 defensive snaps; two sacks, three quarterback hurries, two stops, three tackles, 1.5 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 1 loss at San Francisco (21 of 81 defensive snaps; zero tackles, zero quarterback hurries; 0.0 PFF rating)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were … Exceeded
Looking live: Mike Daniels had an unspectacular rookie season in 2012 (two sacks and 12 tackles while playing 25 percent of the defensive snaps), but it was apparent even then that the skills and drive were there for him to be one of the key "Year 2 jump" players that coach Mike McCarthy is always preaching about. Not only did Daniels top the list of Green Bay’s second-year players to make a big step forward in 2013, but he also was one of the Packers’ best defensive players overall. Daniels immediately made his presence known in training camp, bullying around offensive linemen during a variety of drills, especially in the one-on-one drills. On Day 6, Daniels was recognized in the "Movin’ On Up" category of the Training Camp Report series for his outstanding performance in practice. It was noted in that report, too, that Daniels had been a runner-up for "Movin’ On Up" on two other occasions already, and that was less than one week into camp. After just four padded practices, offensive linemen had nothing to fear more than the sight of Daniels lined up across from them. It was written at the time that "if he’s able to translate his current play into the season, the Packers’ defensive line is going to be good." It turned out that while a few Green Bay defensive linemen struggled in the regular season, Daniels was by far the biggest bright spot among that group. And it wasn’t even close.
Upon further review: Daniels was often dominant when he stepped on the field in the regular season. He’s undersized at just 6-feet, which is a big reason that he dropped to the Packers in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. But Daniels has proven to have a motor that doesn’t stop, and his tenacious attitude has helped him become one of the NFL’s top up-and-coming defensive players. He displayed that high effort level on multiple occasions, but it notably earned him a big sack in Week 3 at Cincinnati. Initially held in check at the line, Daniels broke away to his right just as quarterback Andy Dalton began to scramble left. Daniels wrapped Dalton up two steps later and recorded a sack to force fourth down, turning what would have been a 48-yard field-goal attempt into a 52-yarder that was missed. Daniels’ strength improved greatly from 2012 to 2013, as well. In his first sack of Christian Ponder in Week 8, Daniels drove All-Pro center John Sullivan back five yards to make the play. Later in that same game, lined up outside in a two defensive-linemen set, Daniels brushed aside Vikings left guard Charlie Johnson for another sack. Daniels is quick, too. In Week 2, with Washington inside the red zone, Daniels’ move to the inside instantly got him by left tackle Trent Williams as he brought down Robert Griffin III for a 4-yard loss on a designed run play.
Overall 2013 grade: A
Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster to begin the 2014 season. Daniels went from playing 25.6 percent of snaps in 2012 to playing 48.6 percent of snaps in 2013. The next step in his progression is to see whether he’s capable of playing two out of every three snaps (somewhere around 66 percent) in 2014. Daniels finished second on the team in sacks (just one behind Clay Matthews), but it’s easy to see him taking over the No. 1 spot in that category next season. If defensive coordinator Dom Capers had a room full of players like Daniels, he’d take that in a second. Turning 25 years old in May, Daniels is a long-term piece that the Packers can build the defense around.