For the second consecutive year, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels was named to NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.
Daniels will be one of eight defensive tackles on the list. He’s the only one to never receive a major postseason accolade, though.
“I already know I am” a top player at the position, Daniels said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s just a matter of making everybody else believe it.”
Doing that, in a way, is out of Daniels’ hands. Right or wrong, defensive linemen are judged by sacks. Sacks tend to come on third-down passing situations. Daniels, however, plays fewer third-down snaps than most of his peers. Last year, he played less than half of the third-down snaps. Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Jurrell Casey, by contrast, played more than 90 percent of the third-down snaps. So, in a way, comparing Daniels’ sack production to some of the other defensive tackles is an apples-and-oranges proposition.
“I’m just here to do what’s asked of me,” said Daniels, a Pro Bowl alternate the last two years. “I know I’m a phenomenal first- and second-down player but I’ve also proved that I’m an excellent interior rusher. With having all of the outside linebackers we had, we had to find a way to get them all on the field. NASCAR was a good way to do that. Think of the names: Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, Datone Jones, Clay Matthews. You’ve got to find a way to get all of them on the field, so I can understand that, but I know what I can bring to the table. And I have done that. I think I’ve proven it.”
Daniels might have a bigger role this year, with Peppers and Jones departing in free agency. The free-agent addition of Ricky Jean Francois could take some of the run-stopping burden off of Daniels, which would free him up for more pass-rushing duty.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that I can rush on the interior,” Daniels said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to improve. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to be the best at it. I just want to help the team. If it’s playing more on third down, so be it. If it’s being a first- and second-down run stopper, so be it. It’s just showing my versatility. I think that shows the value that I have as a player. Being able to stop the run the way I do, being able to rush the passer the way I do, it’s a testament to the way I work.”
Here are the defensive tackles listed in the NFL Network Top 100 list, with their pass-rushing numbers and third-down snap rates.
TBA: Aaron Donald, Rams. Donald has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons. He’s collected 28 sacks during that span. He played 90.7 percent of third-down snaps in 2016, according to data provided by Ben Fennell, a producer at NFL Network and a video editor for the Eagles.
No. 38: Fletcher Cox, Eagles. The two-time Pro Bowler has 28.5 sacks in his five seasons, with 16 of those coming the past two seasons – when he was picked for his Pro Bowls. He played 85 percent of third-down snaps last year.
No. 52: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers. The five-time Pro Bowler has 42.5 sacks in his seven seasons, with 33.5 coming in the past four seasons. McCoy’s third-down snap rate was not immediately available.
No. 55: Ndamukong Suh, Dolphins. The five-time Pro Bowler has 47 sacks in his seven seasons, including 11 in his two years after moving from Detroit to Miami. He played 98.2 percent of third-down snaps.
No. 68: Geno Atkins, Bengals. The five-time Pro Bowler has 52 sacks in his seven seasons, including 20 the past two years. He played 93.5 percent of third-down snaps.
No. 84: Mike Daniels, Packers. Daniels never has been selected to a Pro Bowl. He’s got 22 sacks in his five seasons, including back-to-back seasons of four sacks. He played only 49 percent of third-down snaps.
No. 86: Jurrell Casey, Titans. The two-time Pro Bowler has 33 sacks in his six seasons. He’s got 12 sacks the past two seasons, when he was picked for his Pro Bowls, and 27.5 sacks in his last four seasons. He played 81.7 percent of third-downs snaps.
No. 96: Damon Harrison, Giants. Harrison is the lone run-stopping defensive tackle on the NFL Network Top 100 list. He’s got four sacks in four seasons. He was first-team All-Pro last season but not a Pro Bowler.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.