When the Green Bay Packers selected Iowa defensive tackle Mike Daniels in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the pick was welcomed with little fanfare. In fact, many Packer fans wondered how the undersized Daniels, who stands 6'0" and weighs in at 294 pounds, would fit into defensive coordinator Dom Caper's 3-4 defense.
The truth is that Daniels is not a great fit for the 3-4. But at the end of the day, it won't matter, because he can impact the game when it matters most for a defense—on third down.
As an organization, the Packers understand one thing better than most: the NFL is a passing league. To win, you not only have to be able to make plays in the passing game, but you have to be able to apply pressure on the opposing quarterback.
And pressuring the quarterback is something Daniels does very well.
In four seasons with the Hawkeyes, Daniels registered 16.5 sacks as a defensive tackle, including an impressive nine sacks last season, which was good enough for third in the Big Ten Conference.
Even though he may not be the prototypical defensive lineman for Green Bay's 3-4 defense, he has the rare ability to impact the game as an interior pass rusher. He should thrive in nickel and dime situations, which would be a huge boost for a defensive line that totalled just six sacks last season.
Daniels, who has made his presence felt early on in Packers training camp with his energy and solid play up front, began taking snaps with the No.1 dime defense last night according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. This is a sign that he is working towards some significant playing time and soon.
The young d-lineman has been so impressive that even offensive lineman such as right tackle Bryan Bulaga have begun to take notice. Here is what Bulaga told Demovsky about his former Iowa teammate:
“I was telling everybody that when we drafted him, and you know he had to sit out of the OTA's and mini-camps because of the shoulder deal, I was telling everybody, ‘Just wait, just wait.' And he’s come out, and he’s been real impressive. It doesn’t shock me at all that he’s doing well.”
“He’s got lots of energy, and I mean lots of energy,” Bulaga continued. “But he’s also strong, quick and has good hands.”
Daniels has been impressive in team situations and one-on-ones against offensive lineman, overpowering fellow rookies Mike McCabe and Don Barclay with ease, while also having a strong showing against starting guard Josh Sitton.
Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang also had this to say about Daniels: “A lot of guys you go against, they’re either really strong or really fast,” he told Demovsky. “Not many are both. But he looks like a guy that can be very athletic and is also strong. He’s got a little bit of both."
Daniels may not play every down this season or even much in the base defense, but when the Packers need him the most, do not be surprised to see the undersized defensive tackle making plenty of plays in the opponent's backfield.
While other rookies like Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward garner the spotlight, it may be Daniels that makes the most immediate impact.