Over the course of the past two seasons, it seems Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Daniels has been fighting from the ground up. His place on the Packers roster has been tenuous, at best, as he has hung around the fringes until given the chance to shine.
And he’s taken advantage of those opportunities.
Profootballfocus (subscription) recently named him as the Packers “secret superstar,” a guy who has shown nothing but promise when he’s been on the field.
But it’s taken him some doing to actually see the field. Had it not been for injuries, and position changes, Daniels would be an unknown. Instead, when he’s had the chance to rush the passer and cause disruption in the offensive backfield, he’s been the guy to do it.
The piece by Nathan Jahnke over at profootballfocus provides indepth analysis of Daniels’ contributions. Though the numbers aren’t eye-popping, they are impressive given the number of snaps Daniels has played. He has been injury-free and has stepped to the forefront when fellow defensive linemen were shelved in 2012 and 2013.
He fit well into the Packers nickel package the past couple of seasons, but many personnel changes have occurred in the past five months along the D-line. How Daniels will fit in with a line that no longer has Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson is uncertain at this point. But given his production in the pass rush, one has to think he will be given a shot to make the roster once the pads go on.
Even with the additions of Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion in free agency and Khyri Thornton through the draft, Daniels will have his shot. The Packers have added a layer of competition that will surely be one to watch in training camp. Not only will Daniels and the others mentioned above be working for a job, but so will the likes of Jerel Worthy, Josh Boyd and even B.J. Raji.
For certain is the fact that the Packers used nearly all of the 2013 draft on defense and another 40 percent this year, so improvement on that side of the ball is expected, though not guaranteed.
As in seasons past, injuries have played a huge role in the productivity of the defense. Losing guys like Johnny Jolly, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Casey Hayward to injury doesn’t help the team. In addition, the loss of Aaron Rodgers and the subsequent increase in playing time for the defense didn’t help either.
Staying healthy is an important factor for the Packers. With their starters on the field, this could be one of the most dynamic and punishing defenses in the entire league. However, with the frequency of injuries in the NFL, it’s not if, but when they will occur. By continuing to draft well and utilize free agency when needed, the Packers should once again have the depth to overcome those adversities.
And with guys like Mike Daniels waiting to shine, the Packers should be in a good position for another run to the playoffs. Maybe this year they will once again make that deep run through the playoffs.