A year ago, the Green Bay Packers' defense got off to an admirable start. Words like "toughness" were thrown around regularly over the first few weeks, and looking at the run defense appeared to bear that out. Through seven games, the Packers allowed just 83.5 rushing yards per game and forced an impressive nine fumbles (recovering four).
Then, the script flipped. Through the final 10 games (including the Wild-Card playoff game) the defense allowed over 158 yards per game on the ground. In three of those games the Packers gave up more than 200 rushing yards, and in another three they allowed between 150 and 200. There was no longer any talk of toughness.
Enter Mike Daniels yesterday after minicamp practice.
The third-year defensive end is pissed. He got going on the toughness of the defense, saying "I'm tired of getting our face punched in by other teams. I'm not used to that." From Daniels' comments, it's clear that he was offended by the defense's performance a year ago and plans to continue to expand his voice in the locker room and on the field this season. Daniels said, "(Toughness has) been our biggest problem on defense. I'm personally gonna take that, make that my job to really get the best out of everybody, I don't care if I gotta hit somebody before we get on the field."
He sees signs of improvement though, saying "We've got some young guys with some attitude. I think that's different than what it has been." Here's hoping some of the rookies, like linebacker Carl Bradford, combine with new arrival Julius Peppers to bring Daniels' attitude back to the team as a whole. And if people aren't showing the intensity they need to? Well, don't count on Daniels letting that happen: "(If) something has to be said, I'm gonna say it...we play a violent game, we get paid to be violent so why not? If you deck somebody in the locker room because there's a disagreement, there's not gonna be any sensitivity training."
The guy they call "Diesel" seems to give Packers fans more and more reasons to like him each day.
Tramon Williams was interviewed after practice as well, but he seemed a little more confident in the defense's ability to play to that level than Daniels. In fact, he referenced Daniels when discussing that very topic, saying "Mike Daniels is a mean guy, and we definitely need that on this defense...I don't think physicality is going to be an issue with us."
Williams appears to be focusing as much on the mental side of the game rather than the toughness, at least at this point in the offseason. He said, "You gotta be willing to stay mentally in the game, stay focused, and be able to make a play when the time comes, and that's what makes a team great."
"Like Mike said, I guarantee the D's gonna be better, I guarantee we're gonna make more plays."
Packers fans all hope Tramon is right in his assessment. We'll get our first real look in 78 days.