Each year, a player will come out of nowhere during training camp and the preseason and burst onto the scene. New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was a no name rookie out of Mount Union. But, after an effective training camp and preseason, Cruz became a threat for the G-men. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a sixth round draft pick, barely made the Patriots’ roster in 2000 after impressing head coach Bill Belichick during training camp, and the rest is history. As the Green Bay Packers head into training camp, here is my one player to keep an eye on.
Mike Daniels was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Packers out of the University of Iowa. In his rookie season, Daniels put up decent numbers, recording 12 tackles and two sacks. However, in the snow against the Detroit Lions, Daniels scooped up a Matthew Stafford fumble and returned it for his first career touchdown. Last year, Daniels appeared in all 16 games, having 23 total tackles and improving to 6.5 sacks, which was second only to Clay Matthews’ 7.5.
One thing the Packers coaching staff has wanted to improve on over the past few years is to get more of a pass rush from their defensive line. That was the thinking behind drafting Datone Jones with their first round pick in 2013. Jones put up some decent numbers, including 3.5 sacks. Daniels should expect to see more playing not only because of his improving play, but also because starting defensive tackle Ryan Pickett was not resigned during the offseason.
If Jones and Daniels can continue to show improvement this year, some pressure could be lifted off of Matthews, and his number could return to form. Back to Mike Daniels. Unlike Pickett and B.J. Raji, Daniels has the athleticism and quickness to explode off the snap and get pressure on the quarterback. Those are the skills that can make him a disruptive pass rusher, and could give the Packers defense an added pass rushing threat besides Matthews. You may not have heard of Mike Daniels, but after training camp, you just might.