In his Sack Lunch series, Jon Ledyard looks at a particularly impressive pass-rushing performance from the past weekend’s games, highlighting techniques, moves, or athletic traits that brought each player success. In this installment, Jon looks at the traits that make interior defensive lineman Mike Daniels special, focusing on a sack against the Minnesota Vikings.
Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels is now one of the best defensive ends, or, depending on the Packers’ front, 3 technique in the NFL, but throughout the pre-draft process in 2012, the Iowa product had very few factors working in his favor. Undersized for the position at just 6-feet and 291 pounds with an ample gut, Daniels’ short arms and small hands had his spider graph on mockdraftable.com looking quite dismal.
Not only were his measurables vastly underwhelming, but Daniels was also recovering from January surgery to repair a torn labrum, which left him unable to participate in any pre-draft workouts. Armed with nothing but his college tape, Daniels’ stock slid to the fourth round as scouts wondered if his physical limitations were too significant for the defensive tackle to experience success in the NFL.
Daniels has responded by crushing any doubts surrounding his abilities or health, playing in all but two games over his four-plus years with the Packers. A starter in 34 straight games, Daniels has notched 17 sacks since his rookie year, thanks in large part to his rare power as an interior pass rusher.
Minnesota Vikings guard Brandon Fusco (#63) found this out the hard way on Sunday night, as Daniels bullied his way through the offensive lineman for a monster sack of Sam Bradford in the first quarter. With the Vikings facing a 2nd and 11 from their own 46-yard line, Daniels (#76) aligns as a 3 technique on Fusco’s outside shoulder, while teammate Letroy Guion (#98) is shaded outside the center’s shoulder in the opposite A gap.
Daniels knows center Joe Berger (#61) will work to help left guard Alex Boone (#76) secure the shade first, putting Daniels in a one-on-one situation with Fusco. Daniels uses his excellent first step burst to explode into Fusco’s frame, a move aided by the fact that the guard is carrying his hands low and wide, exposing his chest to a bull rush.
Once Daniels get his hands inside, Fusco is in big trouble. Chest control is where a large portion of line play is won or lost, and rarely is complete control obtained this quickly and completely. Daniels has built-in leverage at just six feet tall, but the defensive lineman still plays with excellent bend, powering up and through Fusco while driving him back into the pocket.
Once Daniels has nearly reached the quarterback’s depth, he alertly transitions to a one-armed rush, freeing his left arm to wrap up Bradford. Because he has such complete control of Fusco’s frame, Daniels is able to easily hold the guard at bay with one arm while maintaining leverage in his lower half. Fusco’s arms are now even more useless because Daniels has extended the distance between them by using a long-arm technique (one arm is longer than two). Overwhelmed by the speed and power of Daniels’ textbook bull rush, Fusco can only flail helplessly while Daniels drops Bradford for a nine-yard loss.
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Interior defensive linemen don’t always have the gaudy sack numbers that many edge rushers in the NFL can boast, but that doesn’t mean their pass rush skills are less formidable. The ability to win with power and hand technique on the inside is absolutely critical, and a big reason why Daniels continues to make Green Bay look like geniuses for locking him up on a four-year, $42 million extension last December.
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All video courtesy of NFL Game Pass.