Packers Annual Checkup: DL Mike Daniels

Today is the 11th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Friday, Feb. 8: C Evan Dietrich-Smith
Saturday, Feb. 9: TE Jermichael Finley
Sunday, Feb. 10: LB Robert Francois
Monday, Feb. 11: RB Ryan Grant
Tuesday, Feb. 12: RB Alex Green
Wednesday, Feb. 13: QB Graham Harrell
Season stats: 16 games (14 regular season, two postseason); 14 tackles, two sacks, one fumble recovery, one touchdown, one pass defensed, two missed tackles, seven QB hurries, one penalty (illegal use of hands)
Best game: Week 14 win over Detroit (one touchdown, one fumble recovery, one tackle, one QB hurry, one pass defensed; 0.8 PFF rating; played 34 of 85 defensive snaps)
Worst game: Week 16 win over Tennessee (one missed tackle, two tackles; minus-1.0 PFF rating; played 28 of 60 defensive snaps) season rating: minus-1.1 (No. 12 out of 24 overall on Packers defense; No. 4 out of 7 Packers defensive linemen)
Expectations at the start of the season: Low
Expectations were … Met
Looking live: Daniels, a fourth-round pick by Green Bay, was not a part of the Packers’ defensive plans early in the season. Despite being healthy, the rookie out of the University of Iowa was on the gameday inactive list in Week 1. Between Weeks 2 and 4, Daniels averaged only 11 snaps per game. The surprising part about those limited snaps is that, in those four games, fellow defensive lineman Mike Neal was unavailable due to an NFL suspension (though Green Bay still had Phillip Merling at the time). As the season progressed, Daniels slowly earned more playing time. However, he was never on the field for more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps in any one game. Daniels wasn’t much of an impact player in his first year, but he didn’t make many mistakes or miss many assignments. Mistakes and unnecessary penalties can sometimes be a problem for rookies (they were for Jerel Worthy), so Daniels handled those aspects well.
Upon further review: Daniels was exactly what the Packers expected to get when they selected him with the 132nd pick. He showed his speed and athleticism at several moments this season but none more so than when he scooped up a Matthew Stafford fumble in Week 14 and ran it back 45 yards for a touchdown. Green Bay was down 14-3 midway through the second quarter of that game prior to that great play by Daniels. He was a running back in high school, and it showed. Watching that play again (which was clearly his best highlight of the season), Daniels grabbed the ball off the ground without stopping his forward motion and wasn’t affected at all when Detroit Lions 325-pound offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus tried to push-tackle him down. The downside to Daniels’ game is that he’s undersized, an aspect that the Packers obviously knew about and took into account when drafting him. At only 6-feet tall, Daniels is several inches shorter than the rest of Green Bay’s defensive line. He was often quick off the line of scrimmage but didn’t typically get a lot of push once engaged by an offensive lineman.

Overall 2012 grade: C
Status for 2013: 100 percent chance of being on the Packers’ Week 1 roster. Daniels will likely never be an every-snap defensive lineman in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a spot for him on Green Bay’s roster for many years if he continues to improve. He’s not an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense, but Daniels can continue working as part of certain packages. If he’s put into situations to succeed, ones that allow him to use his superior speed and athleticism, Daniels’ impact on the field should be felt more in the coming seasons than it was in 2012.

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