When watching the Green Bay Packers play, I often find myself asking “where is Mike Daniels?”. After the game, I’ll check the box score and find his pretty typical stat line; an assisted tackle and a QB hit. That’s pretty meager, considering the general acceptance of his superior talent. With my interest piqued, I decided to take a look to see what Mike had been up to so far in 2018. Well, Mike Daniels has been up to quite a bit.
These types of plays are unfortunately uncommon for Daniels. Not because he doesn’t possess the skill; it’s that he isn’t asked to go one on one very often. Frequently lining up as a 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard), Daniels’ primary role on most plays is to take on double teams and not concede ground. It’s as un-glamorous as it sounds. A typical run play for Mike Daniels looks like this:
Guard and tackle double team Daniels, then the guard slips off and picks up the middle linebacker. The only lineman being double teamed on this play? Mr. Daniels. How fun does that sound? To constantly have to hold your ground against two of the opposing team’s biggest players? When broadcasters say that there’s a ‘war in the trenches’, this is what they’re talking about. It’s one on two, and it’s a battle for turf. Watch how low Daniels’ pad level is (I know, I know, typical coach speak):
Mike gives up a yard while occupying two blockers, allowing the linebackers (and Kenny Clark, who won his 1 on 1) to come in and make the play. His helmet was in the chest of his blockers. Daniels had leverage, and he won the battle.
It can go even worse for Diesel. On one play against Detriot, Daniels took the direct line to IHOP and got himself pancaked. The guy must love him some gluten, because with his defensive responsibilities, he’s subject to get pancaked a lot. But who cares? Kerryon Johnson only got two yards.
Daniels’ shorter stature and high school wrestling background make him the perfect candidate to take on double team blocks. To stand a chance against the double team, you have to have a lower leverage point than your blockers. It’s something that’s drilled into every lineman’s head starting at the pee-wee level: get low. You think you’re low enough? Get lower. I’m talking lower than Lil’ Jon and the East Side Boyz. Daniels has a great understanding of leverage, and his quick get-off helps him establish leverage before the blocking lineman can. When you’re slower off the ball and allow your blocker to establish leverage, or get tired and stand up too quickly, the results can be bad. Daniels does well just to stay on his feet here, but it’s not by much.
It’s not all 2 on 1 for Daniels though. When the offense doesn’t double him, Daniels can cause havoc. He can bull rush with the best of them:
And don’t even think about having him rush 1 on 1 vs a center, who are typically the smallest linemen. Honestly, this may be one of my favorite plays of his from the 2018 season:
Daniels should have been sent to the principal’s office after that.
Diesel doesn’t always have to use pure power either. Watch him use good hands and quick feet against Chicago:
He doesn’t have the bend of an elite edge rusher, but he’s not supposed to. His frame isn’t built that way. Daniels can utilize a good first step with decent handwork and a strong push and get results.
Look at the arm extension on this next clip. Minnesota’s center wants to get his hips to the left of Daniels to cut off his pursuit angle. Recognizing this, Daniels quickly extends his arms and gets his blocker at length to easily slice into the backfield. Playing with power doesn’t necessarily mean sticking your head down and plowing directly into a blocker’s chest.
The guy is also relentless. Known for being the cliche of ‘first one in the weightroom, last one out’, Daniels can simply overwhelm his opponents. Go ahead, try to have a running back block him:
Things obviously aren’t all roses though. Daniels struggled a bit against the 49ers, seemingly unable to disengage from both run and pass blocks as San Francisco picked up big plays through much of the game. The 49ers attacked the edges against Green Bay; their big chunk runs were off tackle or outside runs, designed to go outside Green Bay’s formidable defensive line and attack their questionable linebacking corps. Daniels was effectively rendered null on these plays in his traditional 3-technique, as San Fran’s guards were quick enough off the ball to stop Daniels from shooting the B gap, and when Daniels crashed in, they simply ran outside of him.
The stats will come for Mike; 10 combined tackles through 6 games isn’t great, but it’s not for lack of talent. Daniels has been bringing the heat for a few years now, and there are no signs of slowing down. He’ll continue doing the dirty work and freeing up his linebackers as long as he’s asked to; it’s up to them to stuff the stat sheet and pile up the numbers. That’s where Mike’s presence is felt. To answer my own question, where is Mike Daniels? Everywhere.