Mike Daniels on mission to become elite lineman
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The first two-sack game of Mike Daniels' career didn't impress the Green Bay Packers' second-year defensive lineman. Taking over the team lead in sacks didn't faze Daniels, either. He has his sights set well beyond just being a player that occasionally picks up a couple sacks.
"I got two (sacks); that's cute," Daniels said. "But I really think I left about three (sacks) out there. I'm really continuing to work on my game to make sure that I not just become an 'Oh, he made a play; that's nice,' but to 'Oh, he's an elite player; watch out.'"
Daniels has the early makings of potentially becoming an elite player in the NFL. Daniels fell to the fourth round of the 2012 draft mostly because he was undersized and because he was battling through a shoulder injury at the time that had caused scar tissue to accumulate.
The scar tissue problem is long gone for Daniels, and while he'll never grow any taller than his relatively short 6-foot frame, he's actually been able to use that to his advantage. It also helps that Daniels is as intense and relentless as football players come.
"I'm the smallest guy on the defensive line; I'll get killed if I did (ever let up)," Daniels said. "I know I really have to work hard every snap, every play. And whenever I do make a play, I never do a nice spin move or 'That was a cool jump-over-the-head type thing.' Clay (Matthews), he jumps over people. I don't do anything wild like that. I just get to the bone, headbutt, try to get off the block and get to the quarterback."
Daniels had a fine rookie season, but it was nothing spectacular, playing in 16 games (playoffs included) with two sacks and 15 tackles. But in training camp leading up to this season, it was Daniels who showed up in nearly every practice with a memorable moment, especially during one-on-one pass-rushing drills.
"Mike is an excellent example of a young man, Year 1 to Year 2, making a big jump," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm very pleased with the way Mike is playing."
Daniels, however, is more interested to see how his Year 2 to Year 3 jump looks next season.
"If this is the jump I made, I'm actually looking forward to what I can do with an offseason now that I actually know what's going on," Daniels said.
Daniels spent this past offseason in Green Bay working with strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Lovat doing everything that he couldn't do heading into his rookie season due to his shoulder injury. After playing last season varying his weight between 285-294 pounds, Daniels is now at 302 pounds.
"Right now, I can definitely feel that the extra weight is helping me out a lot," Daniels said.
The Packers aren't ranked fourth in the NFL in run defense, 10th in sacks and 10th in third-down defense just from Daniels' production, but ProFootballFocus.com does have him rated as Green Bay's top overall defensive player through seven games this season.
"I think it starts with his temperament," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He's a guy who's going to go 100 miles an hour every play. He's got a really good combination of strength and punch and quickness to get off a block and go close the gap. That's what you have to do. You've got to be able to make your move on a guy. Sometimes you power him and move him back. Mike has a little bit of an advantage because he has a leverage advantage on most offensive linemen he's playing. And that helps."
Veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk has always been impressed with Daniels. But Daniels' recent sack numbers are a little higher than even what Hawk expected.
"You look at a guy like Mike Daniels getting all these sacks, he's just beating guys," Hawk said. "If he ever gets a one-on-one, believe me, he's going to win that most of the time.
"I knew he was a stud the whole time, but I don't know if I saw, what does he have, four sacks? He's a guy that does things right, a young guy that works really hard. I mean, you've talked to him, he's crazy. So it's great. It's good to have a guy like that. He likes being physical and he plays really hard, so you've got to respect that."
Daniels isn't predicting how many sacks he believes he'll finish the season with. He is counting up the sacks that he's missed out on, though. And until that number is zero, Daniels isn't satisfied.
"My motto is: 'I have to be absolutely perfect,'" Daniels said. "Anything short of perfect is unacceptable. I walk away from every game with that feeling. I'll wait 'til after the season to reflect on the good things I did. Right now, I'm really just trying to make sure I can make every play, as ridiculous as that sounds, but I truly feel the great ones step on the field with that mentality, like, 'Hey, my presence is going to be felt on every snap.'"
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