Packers understand challenge of facing ‘once in a lifetime’ DL Aaron Donald

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Zach Kruse
·2 min read
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The Green Bay Packers certainly aren’t underestimating the challenge of facing two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

The coach, the quarterback and the center were all highly complimentary of the special player heading to Lambeau Field to take on the Packers in the NFC Divisional Round playoff game on Saturday.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur called Donald a “freak” and a “once-in-a-lifetime” player. A first-team All-Pro for the sixth straight season, Donald is dealing with a rib injury but is expected to play against the Packers.

“I assume he’ll be ready to go, full speed ahead. I know the way this guy prepares. He will be fully prepared to come in and give his best effort,” LaFleur said Tuesday. “He can definitely change a game if you allow him to. We have to be very conscientious of what we’re asking our guys to do and accounting for him at all times.”

Donald produced 13.5 sacks, 27 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles in 2020. He also led all NFL players in total pressures. The Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018, Donald has another strong case for winning the award this season.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Donald is the rare player who can be an impact pass-rusher from the inside.

“He’s a special, special player,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Impact player every single year. A guy that you have to game plan for, have to be aware of where he’s at at all times. Just one of those special talents that we haven’t seen a whole lot of in this game in the history of the game.”

In his last meeting against the Packers in 2018, Donald sacked Rodgers twice and hit him two other times in a 29-27 win for the Rams in Los Angeles.

The stakes are much higher now, with a trip to the NFC Championship Game on the line Saturday in Green Bay.

Center Corey Linsley, a first-team All-Pro in 2020, will be partly responsible for keeping Donald away from Rodgers.

On Tuesday, Linsley called Donald a “ridiculously good player,” a “generational talent” and a “force” who “shows up” all over the film.

According to Pro Football Focus, Donald had an NFL-high 98 pressures during the regular season. He added six more, including two sacks, during the Rams’ upset win over the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Round.

The coach, the quarterback and the center all understand the awaiting challenge. Now, the Packers’ trio must figure out a plan and then execute the plan against arguably the single greatest defensive player in football. Aaron Donald stands directly in the Packers’ path to the Super Bowl.

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