Those who have followed the Cincinnati Bengals since the inception of NFL free agency are aware of their aversion to big-splash signings outside of their comfort zone. But, in that respect and in so many others, 2020 brought changes within the Paul Brown Stadium walls.
Based on the sudden and steep decline of the Bengals’ defense the past couple of years, the team made bolstering that side of the ball a major priority. After the team brought in some high-profile names in free agency and more young talent in the draft, they weren’t ready to rest on their laurels.
Varying issues at the interior defensive line forced the Bengals to look for more outside aid and they looked at one of the better linemen of the decade. Former Packers and Lions defensive tackle Mike Daniels joined Cincinnati on a one-year deal this summer.
Recently, we were privileged enough to have Mike Daniels on The Orange and Black Insider. The interview proved to be one of the most entertaining we’ve ever had—and that’s saying something given the many great guests we’ve hosted on the program.
Not only does Daniels seem to be a valuable piece in Lou Anarumo’s defense this year, but Daniels is a guy who will quickly endear himself to this rabid fan base. Even if his stint is Cincinnati lasts this one year on his current contract, Daniels has the potential to be a fan favorite for years to come.
Weight: 310 pounds
Hometown: Stratford, New Jersey
Experience: nine years
What he is bringing to the Bengals’ defense
On one hand, Daniels has had a solid career and a Pro Bowl berth to his name. He’s been on the NFL Network’s Top-100 Players List and was a productive player on teams that went far into the postseason.
On the other, he’s a player with something to prove towards the end of his career. He’s at the point where many productive NFL veterans reach—in that he is opting for one-year “rental deals”, in hopes he finds a fit and a “home” wherein he can parlay solid performances into one final longer-term deal.
Matt Minich had a nice film breakdown about a month ago, talking about what Daniels can bring to the newly-diversified scheme put forth by Lou Anarumo:
Daniels talked about his value to Cincinnati’s defensive unit on our show. “I’m extremely flexible and that’s how I’ve always been. Coach (Dom) Capers, Coach (Mike) Pettine, Coach (Matt) Patricia—they all lined me up all over the place,” Daniels told us.
“From the five (technique) to the zero, all the way to the other five and I’m here to do whatever they ask me to do—drop into coverage, whatever. Whatever this team (the Bengals) needs me to do, that’s what I’m here to do,” Daniels continued. “I want to help this team win, I want to make everyone else around me better and I want to be the best all-around teammate I can be and the only way to do that is to be selfless and do what is asked of me.”
Are you sold on this guy, yet?
We know the Bengals coveted depth at many areas of the defense, but none more so than on the defensive line. Cincinnati has some mega-talented players all along the line, but health issues in recent years have caused players to take a more-than-ideal amount of snaps.
Daniels may have been in the team’s periphery during the early summer months, but when Ryan Glasgow failed a physical and Josh Tupou opted out of the season, he was thrust into the forefront of their plans. The team’s acquisition of the veteran lineman became even more critical when Renell Wren went down for the year with a training camp quadriceps injury.
Daniels has starter ability, but will like be utilized as a heavy rotator. That isn’t a slight, by any stretch, as Anarumo wants to mix up looks and keep his plethora of talented veterans fresh—and that includes Daniels.
For the cost of just under $1.3 million against the team’s salary cap this season, Daniels is set up to be a bargain for the Bengals.
The Queen City and the Bengals are becoming home
As briefly mentioned above, injury concerns from the previous season caused the open market to be initially cool on Daniels. But, when Cincinnati came calling, Daniels was all ears.
Even today and after what the team did in free agency this offseason, the Bengals have a reputation, when it comes to the spring sweepstakes. Still, the outside perception and what players tell each other in their own sales pitches are two different things.
“Whenever you see loyalty towards the players—you’ve got guys like A.J. Green, (Carlos) Dunlap, Geno (Atkins), they’ve been around a long time...even with (Chad Johnson) Ochocinco and those guys back in the day, Corey Dillon and all of those guys—you pay attention to that kind of stuff, like, these guys are career Bengals,” Daniels told us.
“When an organization shows that kind of loyalty to their guys, that only speaks to the higher-ups, the ownership,” Daniels continued. “That’s definitely where you want to be—you want to be somewhere where they love their guys because, as you can see, Coach (Marvin) Lewis stuck around for a long time, did great things, always had tough defenses—defenses I admired big-time. Now, Coach Taylor comes in and it doesn’t shock me that they have two coaches, back-to-back, that players love.”
Daniels also touched on his relationship with Atkins as catalyst for his arrival in Cincinnati. And, at the onset of the interview, he noted how much he and his loving family are loving the city, despite the pandemic limitations on public businesses.
Additionally, playing for both the Lions and Packers—two similarly-run franchises—has brought an air of familiarity to Daniels with the Brown family and the Bengals. Even though it may be a short-term marriage, both sides are embracing each others’ attributes they’re bringing to the table.
An Anime-ted personality
When a new player arrives to a team, the fan base immediately wants to know the surface-level contributions of said acquisition. However, all of these men have interesting facets about their personal background that often get overlooked—particularly when we’re talking about a veteran on a one-year contract.
Aside from an incredibly affable personality, one of the things that has brought Daniels notoriety is his love of comics. His primary passion is in anime and manga, but he also is well-versed on the respective universes of Marvel and DC.
In our chat, he noted the possibility of owning his own memorabilia/comics store, but also talked about some of his prized possessions, as far as collectors go. “Dragon Ball Z” remains his top choice for anime/comics, and his VHS copies of the show remain a rarity in collector’s circles.
But, as it goes with most of us having numerous hobbies, it can bleed into the day job. One part of our recent conversation with Daniels centered around touchdown celebrations. Those are rare for interior defensive linemen, but the big guy had one a score in his rookie year.
When talking about an Ochocinco-ian celebration he may have up his sleeve in 2020 with the Bengals, Daniels only partially divulged what he has in store. And, not surprisingly, if he gets into the end zone this year, it will be something from “Dragonball Z”...we think.
While this does make Daniels unique, he did note that many of his defensive line-mates share his passion for comics and anime. That being the case, he’s confident they’d join in on the celebration, especially in light of the NFL’s recent loosening of celebratory actions of late.
A man of purpose, faith and family
One of our first questions to Daniels was about the Jacob Blake situation in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Racial issues remain unfortunately prevalent at the moment, but the question seemed especially poignant, given the fact that Daniels spent seven years in nearby Green Bay.
When asked, Daniels spoke of “courage” and “needed change”, when it comes to awareness being brought to light in the wake of so many jarring instances—especially of late. His Twitter account also highlights some of the ideals necessary for the progression of humanity in this regard.
But, aside from being an excellent football player and advocate for racial equality, Daniels is a man of faith and one who loves his continuously-growing family. He and his wife met during his time at the University of Iowa and have four kids, with a fifth on the way.
He told us that his wife is his best friend, sounding board and knows him better than even any coach could. Interestingly enough, Daniels noted that his wife has sometimes caught glimpses of his film and could tell if something wasn’t right. She’d also be the first person he would want to speak to about practice, training camp and game performances.
As many fathers tend to do, Daniels has imparted his passion for anime and comics onto his children. So much so, that he has caught his kids watching these animated shows in their native language with English subtitles.
But, as he noted in our chat, Daniels is first and foremost a man of the Christian faith and attempts to live that out on a daily basis. He hopes his play on the field and the work he places in the preparation aspect will teach his children discipline, but will also hopefully provide a high-profile example of a man exhibiting his faith and standing up for the issues of the day.
To that point, Daniels also told us about a cause near in New Jersey near his hometown in which he is passionate. New Soles, Inc. This great nonprofit organization provides footwear to at-risk and underprivileged youth, as well as other preparatory programs for their success.
His support of this great cause is just another reason to root for one of the newest Bengals players.
Our thanks to Mr. Daniels and EAG Sports Management for the time he gave us on the program. Be sure to check out New Soles, Inc. to support a cause near and dear to Daniels’ heart!
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