Heading into Week 8 against the Tennessee Titans, the Cincinnati Bengals hit a major crossroads. They were 1-5-1 after letting at least should-have-been wins go through their grasp and the team was making headlines because of disgruntled players.
Aside from a solid game plan and good performances by a number of individual players, a signature win for Zac Taylor required admirable veteran leadership.
Enter one Mike Daniels.
The veteran defensive tackle has played in a number of high-profile games, including postseason victories, so his mesh of talent and experience is valuable to the team. He recently missed some time with an injury, but came back in time to help lead the Bengals over Tennessee to quiet the critics.
During the team’s bye week on the heels of the big win, we were given the opportunity to speak once again with Daniels. The affable, talented lineman didn’t disappoint once again, as we touched on a number of topics.
In our first chat with Daniels, we learned about what he brings to the team on the field, as well as the man off of it. This time around, we focused on other facets, including his unique offseason workout regimen and some film study on his impact in the win against the Titans.
Daniels’ take on the Bengals’ current status and Joe Burrow
At the onset of our chat, John Sheeran and I asked about the status of the locker room after a big win following such a tumultuous week off of the field. Carlos Dunlap made a very public split with the team, while John Ross’ name popped up in trade talks as well.
Daniels actually noted that these incidents actually galvanized the guys who remained on the team, as they tuned out the noise.
“We were focused and the coaches did a really great job,” Daniels said when asked by what was different this week. “The coaches had a really good plan and, honestly, our attitude is what carried us over.”
As mentioned above, Daniels’ leadership seemed to be critical to getting crucial win this week. As he returned to the lineup and the team is acclimating other new faces to deal with injuries, things seemed to come together against a good Tennessee team.
“We had a lot of new guys, whether it was guys coming off of I.R. (myself), guys who have only been here a few weeks like Xavier Williams, or a guy who got here literally two days before the game in Quinton Spain, and with a bunch of young guys, too, we just came out with the right attitude. The attitude that we weren’t going to be denied and let that evolve and mature.”
Daniels predictably noted that the locker room is in a much better place following a victory and also specifically talked about Spain’s contributions to the lineup. But, he also noted the impact of the team’s rookie signal-caller through the first eight games.
“No question. No question—Joe is definitely a strong point of this team,” Daniels said when we mentioned Joe Burrow and Aaron Rodgers in the same sentence. “Quite frankly, we just need to give him the ball back. We’ve got to take 10 points off of the board and get him the ball back—we’re going to like the results more than when we haven’t been doing those things.”
Daniels’ creative offseason workout regimen and how it’s aided him in 2020
When Daniels hit free agency this year, he had something to prove. After making a Pro Bowl a few years ago, he had an injury-plagued 2019 season with the Detroit Lions.
A few months passed before teams came beating on his door, but he was ready when the Bengals courted him. The major reason for that readiness was because of his intensive, unique workout regimen.
As we went over video clips of both his workouts he posted on Instagram and a critical play he made in the Titans game, he noted that these workouts were all relatable to in-game battles.
“...After I get good power on him (Titans offensive lineman, Ben Jones), you see I turn his entire body,” Daniels said as we looked over the film of Ryan Tannehill’s critical first quarter red zone interception in Week 8. “You’ll see me do this with the gray band all the time. Then you’ll even see me do this with weights; you’ll also see me do steering with a (heavily-weighted) plate. That’s what I’m doing here, turning him, opening him up as I get going...his (Jones’) back is to the end zone by the end of the play.”
Daniels led the charge of pressure on Tannehill to force the errant throw. The play was an absolutely critical one to turn the momentum in the game.
As we mentioned earlier, Daniels had the familiar heartbreak of experiencing an early-season injury. It landed him on the Bengals’ I.R. and he could have packed it in, so to speak, for the rest of the year.
But, because he had some great conditioning in the spring and summer months, it allowed him to bounce back from the injury quicker than many expected. Additionally, the new flexibility provided by I.R. rules for the unique 2020 season allowed him to return for the Week 8 contest.
Some other facets from our sit-down with Daniels:
- His workouts varied from heavy weights to resistance bands and circuit training.
- Daniels worked with a team of experts to create his workout regimen and often did these at his own home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- As he talked about Spain, Daniels called him “old school” and noted the nastiness in his play.
- When asked about the rest of the season for the Bengals and how they may finish, he used the old adage of a bunch of “one-game seasons”, so to speak, for the remaining eight games.
Our immense gratitude to Mr. Daniels and EAG Sports Management for the opportunity to speak with him once again. It’s easy to see why he is respected in the Bengals’ locker room and how he is quickly becoming a fan favorite.
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