THOUSAND OWNERS, California – Los Angeles rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was in the middle of a postgame interview after a national TV victory over New England Patriots when an unexpected visitor made a como.
“Hi, this year’s defensive player!” cornerback Jalen Ramsey shouted as he joined Donald on camera. “Stop playing with him!”
A shy laugh swept over Donald’s face as he looked down and chuckled.
“It’s all love,” Donald said of the moment a few days later. “You appreciate that from your guys.”
Donald is hardly shy on the field, where he greets quarterbacks at an alarming rate and often engulfs giant people who try to block him. But he is not so outgoing when it comes to discussing personal accomplishments or campaigning for awards.
The two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year typically declines when asked about the opportunity to earn the award a third time, which will place him in a small circle of three-time award winners that includes Lawrence Taylor and JJ Watt.
“My main focus is trying to just win,” Donald says. “The only thing I did not achieve, I felt, is a Super Bowl, so my only thing is to try to do everything I can to help this team win and get back to the Super Bowl and this once win it. ”
Aries (9-5) is earning a playoff spot and could win Sunday with a win over Seattle Seahawks (10-4) at Lumen Field (16:25 ET, Fox).
In his seventh NFL season, Donald anchors a defense that ranks second in the NFL in efficiency and is again considered one of the best in the league.
“Looking at the way it’s affecting and affecting the game, I think he’s the biggest freak he’s still appearing on the state sheet,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Donald has 12.5 sacks, which is tied for second place in the NFL backwards Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker TJ Watt, who has 13. And he has created the first pressure on 86 games, which is number two behind Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (89).
“He’s close to perfect,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Donald, who has recorded 12 of his 84.5 career sacks against the Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. “He has everything you’re looking for.”
Aaron Donald, whewwwwwww.
I’m not going through and feeling all these guys right now, but this is double the team rate as a defensive tackle (x) at pass-rush winning rate as a defensive tackle (y) this season through today’s 4pm game.
(ESPN / next gene statistics) pic.twitter.com/9VAwWpCsIk
– Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 21, 2020
“He’s nonstop,” he said Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, who saw a Donald-led defense hold the Bucs 27-24 in Week 11. “Well go off, he has a toolbox of moves that is second to none, just a hell of a football player.”
When lined up as an inside lineman, Donald has the highest pass-rush win in the NFL, hitting his blocks within 2.5 seconds 25% of the time, and he has achieved that while doubling the team at 70% of the time. his pass-rush, most of any inside lineman in the NFL.
And get this: Donald has met 20 triple teams this season. Only Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (24) and the Seahawks’ defensive tackle Jarran Reed (23) has seen three blockers in several cases, although it can be discussed in all cases by triple team whether an offense planned a blocking of three people or if it happened accidentally or incorrectly.
As Donald’s numbers continue to pile up, some of his most impressive plays are not hinted at on the state sheet.
In the 24-3, Week 14 route of the Patriots, Donald disrupted the route of Patriots running back Damien Harris as a quarterback Cam Newton tried to submit a screenshot. Linebacker Kenny Young intercepted the throw and returned it 79 yards – with Donald and Ramsey as his leading blockers – for a touchdown.
“Cam threw a good pass, it’s just the backside that got off track because of Aaron,” Rams defense coordinator Brandon Staley said. “It’s just one of the pieces that players like him do, and it’s not for anything other than studying the game … and then they have those real instincts that take over when they’re in that moment.”
Watt has 13 sacks, most in the NFL, and a bout for the top-ranked Steelers defense. He’s also on Donald’s heels creating the first pressure and doing so in 84 games.
Howard leads the NFL with nine interceptions, but faces an upward battle to make a historic trend of being recognized as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. In the last 25 years there have been only two cornerbacks – Charles Woodson in 2009 and Stephon Gilmore last season – has won the award.
The race this season may come down to the last two games.
On Sunday, Donald again meets Wilson, who he has fired more than any other quarterback in his career. He will likely seek justification for a 10-week performance against the division’s rival, as he was kept without a sack – or a state – in a 23-16 Rams victory.
Whether or not a potentially great game can help him earn an individual award, Donald does not appear to be paying too much attention.
“My main focus is to try to do everything I can to help this team win games and get to the last dance,” he said. “Whatever happens from there, happens. As far as statistics and all that, or whatever I hope people would see, I don’t care. I just play my game.”