GREEN BAY, Wis. – How good is Aaron Donald, the Los Angeles Rams’ All-Pro defensive tackle?
Take it from Fox Sports commentator Troy Aikman, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who’s seen a lot of superb players during his 30-plus years in the professional game.
“I played against Reggie White, I played against Lawrence Taylor and, I’ve got to tell you, this Aaron Donald is the best defensive player that I’ve ever seen,” Aikman said during the Rams’ victory over Seattle on Saturday. “He’s really remarkable – he should be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and I think he should be getting some votes for MVP of the entire league. He’s that good.”
Or, take it from Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime-type player,” said LaFleur, who was the offensive coordinator for the Rams in 2017 when Donald won his first Defensive Player of the Year award. “Being there with him, I don’t think you truly appreciate him until you start game-planning against him. This guy is dynamic. I think (defensive coordinator) Brandon Staley and his staff do a phenomenal job of just moving him all over the place, so it’s hard to get a bead on exactly where he’s going to be. We have to be well aware of where he ends up and make sure we communicate well and account for him at all times, because he’s a guy that can totally disrupt and have a major impact on a game.”
Or, take it from defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who makes it a point to watch the league’s top defensive linemen. Donald’s league-leading 98 pressures are 22 more than any other player in the league regardless of position and 21 more than all of Montgomery’s players combined.
“If a guy’s going to short-set him, he’s got the speed and quickness to cross chop and get around him. They slide the protection to him, he’s able to counter and split the crease and get vertical. And then people start setting him with depth because of his speed, and then he goes to his power. He’s just a unique human. He’s a freak-show athlete. It’s fun to watch him play. Those guys don’t come around very often. When you get one, you play the heck out of him.”
Or, take it from center Corey Linsley, who got an up-close-and-personal look at Donald when the teams met in 2015 and 2018. In 2018, Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks and repeated as Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s a ridiculously good player. He’s a generational talent. He’s a force. He shows up on film all over the place,” Linsley said on Tuesday. “He’s going to be on the guards more often than he will over the center, but it’s a team effort, a blocking-unit effort. Everybody has to know where he is on the field at all times, and if he’s on the field. It’s going to take all of us, for sure.”
Or, take it from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was sacked twice by Donald in the 2018 game. There’s nothing worse for a quarterback than up-the-middle pressure because it takes away the ability to step up in the pocket.
“It’s very rare that you have an impact player that rushes from the inside. There’s just not as much space,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “J.J. Watt has done it for a long time and also done it on the edge, but most of the real, real impact players, when it comes to pass rush, are edge rushers. A little different with ‘99.’ He’s a special, special player. 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, and just one of those special talents that we haven’t seen a whole lot of in the history of the game.”