The defensive line has not been a strong suit of the Green Bay Packers over the past couple of seasons but with the emergence of Mike Daniels as an impact player last season and potential break out of Datone Jones in 2014, the Packers suddenly have the makings of a dominant defensive line.
Daniels, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, has been a spark plug for the Packers ever since they drafted him. He contributed some in his rookie season, posting 2.5 sacks and proving some interior pressure but he was not yet an impact player. That all changed in 2013, when Daniels grew into one of the NFL’s best interior pass rushers, notching an impressive 6.5 sacks and becoming one of Green Bay’s most reliable playmakers on defense.
Now Jones, a first-round pick in 2013 NFL Draft is set to embark on his second season with the Packers after an injury riddled campaign that limited him to just eight tackles and 3.5 sacks. Yet, even though Jones struggled to make the kind of impact fans were expecting in his first season, Daniels in the perfect example of why it sometimes takes defensive lineman an extra year or two to adjust to the pro game.
In college at UCLA, Jones was such a strong, dominating athlete that he was able to get by purely on athletic skill. In the NFL, that doesn’t fly. But that is often the case with defensive lineman, they’ve never faced the high caliber offensive lineman in college that they do in the NFL, so there is normally an adjustment period.
However, as Jones prepares for his second season, he is healthy and ready to make the same kind of leap that Daniels did last season and if he can, the Packers are going to have one of the best interior pass rushing combinations and defensive lines in pro football.
Daniels, who has mainly played in passing situations may see a slightly bigger role on run downs this year but at the end of the day, playing great defense in the NFL is about pressuring the quarterback. Despite the fact that interior rushers generally don’t rack up the same sack numbers as 3-4 outside linebackers or defensive ends, their presence is just as if not more important.
When you have players like Daniels and Jones crashing down on the quarterback from the interior of the defense, it makes the jobs of Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry, much, much easier. If Jones, who should start in the base 3-4 defense as well, can make the same jump in year two that that Daniels did, then watch out — because if the Packers have two impact players on their defensive line, they will be well on their way to building one of the best defense if the National Football League, bare none.