When opponents talk about the Rams defense, it almost always starts with the big man in the middle: Aaron Donald. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year is once again having an outstanding season, leading the league with 12.5 sacks, which matches his 2019 total.
He’ll try to increase that number on Sunday against the Jets, who rank last in scoring and yards offensively. Leading up to this Week 15 matchup, Jets players and coaches discussed Donald’s game and what makes him so good.
They all recognized his rare talent, and Sam Darnold says it’ll be fun to face the menacing defensive tackle.
Coach Adam Gase
Gase will be tasked with game planning against Donald, which is never easy. It'll take a complete team effort up front to neutralize the interior rusher, utilizing double-teams and sliding protection his way. Gase pointed out how difficult it is to slow down Donald because of his versatility, with No. 99 moving all over the formation. "I think what makes Aaron Donald Aaron Donald is that consistency of if you do not double team him, he is getting to the ball carrier or getting to the quarterback. Like he changes the game so much, it’s hard to explain, you have to watch it. When you watch this guy get double-teamed almost every snap, and the five snaps he gets singled up, he wins. "He gets double-teamed a lot, it doesn’t matter though. I mean the guy is phenomenal at defeating blocks whether one or two guys are on him, whether he’s backside, frontside of the run. If he’s not the best player in the league, he’s top three. He’s so disruptive."
QB Sam Darnold
Darnold didn't go into detail on Donald, simply saying he's "a good player" and that he looks forward to playing against him on Sunday. "Aaron Donald is a good player. He definitely pops out on tape, especially it seems like whenever a play needs to be made, he is always there making it. So yeah, it will be fun playing against him."
RB Frank Gore
Gore is very familiar with Donald, having played against him multiple time from his days with the 49ers. Gore is near the end of his career now, but he has a ton of respect for the All-Pro defensive tackle. “He’s probably the best player on defense in the NFL right now. I’ve been competing with him since I was in San Fran. [He’s] always been a great player. Plays the game the right way.”
C Connor McGovern
Donald typically rushes against the left guard, but McGovern will get his chances against Donald at center, too. McGovern broke down what the Jets have to do against No. 99 this weekend, saying guys have to win one-on-one battles when they come about. “I played him in 2018. I was a guard back then and he’s a special player. He presents a ton of challenges. He’s fast, he’s quick, he’s strong. He’s a little bit smaller so he’s a hard target. Normally when guys are his strength, they don’t have that strength, but he’s got that full package. He’s a great player and we’re just going to have to help each other out and make sure whoever’s on him, they’ve got to do their best to win that one-on-one battle and when we have a free guy, to go slide over and help him.”