Mike Daniels talked the talk during minicamp. His Green Bay Packers defensive teammates think he’s more than capable of walking the walk.
“If something has to be said, I’m going to say it. If somebody has a problem with it, we’re grown men. We play a violent game. We get paid to be violent. So why not? If you deck somebody in the locker room because you have a disagreement, there’s not going to be any sensitivity training.
“It’s a barbaric sport. So that’s how you’re going to have to approach it. I’m tired of getting our face punched in by other teams. I’m not used to that.”
That’s what Daniels told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month.
After a season during which the Packers ranked 25th in the NFL against the run and were 29th in average yards per carry against, someone needs to be violent against something, because they weren’t doing it to opposing ball carriers in 2013.
Daniels is an easy player to root for just because he lays it all out there. He’s 6-foot-nothing, one of the shortest defensive ends in the NFL. He was a fourth-round pick out of Iowa in 2012.
But somehow, he managed to get nine quarterback sacks as a senior at Iowa, despite being too short to play.
Somehow, he managed to get 6½ sacks last season in the NFL, second only to Clay Matthews on the Packer defense. Daniels did that despite only making one start.
Pro Football Focus ranked him as the sixth-best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL last season. He played about 400 fewer snaps than the five guys ranked ahead of him—J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals, Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills, Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints and Sheldon Richardson of the New York Jets.
That’s some heady company. Of the three Packers with enough snaps at defensive end to be rated, Daniels was also the only one to have a positive ranking against the run, receiving a 2.9 grade. Johnny Jolly was a minus-5.5. B.J. Raji was a minus-20.2.
Daniels had 23 tackles a year ago to go with the 6½ sacks.
But on a defense that is short of a vocal leader, someone needed to step up. It appears Daniels is taking on the job in his third season in Green Bay.
As far as the getting violent with teammates part? At least one of them wants no part of it.
“Yeah, I mean, he’s probably going to do it,” linebacker Andy Mulumba said. “I don’t see myself fighting that guy. He’s pretty strong. I know his strength. I’m willing to do whatever he tells me to do.”
Defenses should play smart, but they should play mean, too.
“I think that’s been our biggest problem on defense,” Daniels said. “So I’m personally going to really get the best out of everybody. I don’t care if I have to hit somebody before we get on the field.”
The Packers’ run defense started well, holding teams to an average of 79 yards a game through the first six games of the season.
Over the final 10 games, that average was 152.6 yards per game and they only held one team—the New York Giants—to less than that 79 yards they averaged early in the year.
The San Francisco 49ers then ran over the Pack for 167 yards in the NFC Wild Card Playoff loss in January.
If Mike Daniels is to be believed, that won’t be acceptable—or tolerated—in 2014.