One Step To Take: Daniel McCullers

New series we’re kicking off here to get us through the upcoming dog days of the offseason. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.

Daniel McCullers – Rise To Occasion Of The Long Drive 

There are a lot of ways we can attack McCullers. It’s a critical season for him. The expectation is for him to become the team’s starting nose tackle but it’s hard to be confident in that idea. Not impossible, mind you, but the sample size is so underwhelming, you don’t know how it’s going to go.

Daniel McCullers is that Thai place that doesn’t have any reviews on Yelp. You go anyway, take a chance, and pray you don’t get food poisoning.

Using the charting we did last season, only twice did McCullers play at least five consecutive snaps. One of those instances came at the end of the blowout victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Compare that to Steve McLendon who did so 13 times with several more instances of four straight. McLendon’s “snap streak” high was 12 in a row. McCullers’ best was only seven.

A small part of that had to do with McLendon picking up snaps at defensive end/defensive tackle but in the event of an injury, like what happened to Stephon Tuitt, McCullers could be call upon for extra snaps, even with the addition of Javon Hargrave.

The point is that McCullers has to be physically prepared to undertake the massive uptick in snaps he’s expected to see this season. It’s been three seasons since he’s logged as much playing time as he will this year.

There isn’t any evidence he’s lazy or not working hard to that goal but no matter what he weighs in at this year – 340, 350, whatever – conditioning will always be a challenge. There are going to be tough moments. A December game when you’re worn out physically, mentally, with a playoff bid on the line. A long, 4th quarter drive where you aren’t able to sub out and have to dig deep for last reserves of energy. One of those games where the offense is switching personnel groupings, 11 back to 12, and you’re running on and off the field to try and match.

All of that is tiring but it doesn’t change the standard. As we looked at with Cam Heyward, the expectation is to play with fanatical effort. The effort given the first snap should match the last one. Even for McCullers, there can’t be any let-up. No second gear. Only one speed.

To be fair and clear, I actually admire McCullers’ effort. The guy chases after the ball. But that has been when he’s fresh, not ragged and run down.

Again, there are a ton of areas you can point to for improvement. Pad level, hand use, aggressiveness, and vocalness. But it all starts with the basics. Being conditioned to handle those snaps. Because if the conditioning goes, if the hands are on hips, if you’re praying to the defensive Gods to get you off the field, all that technique falls apart. That’s where is starts for Big Dan in a big season.

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