Bucs OC: Aaron Donald ‘on the same level as J.J. Watt’

By David Kenyon

Aaron Donald isn’t quite a household name, but the St. Louis Rams defensive tackle is a dominant force in the trenches.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter knew Donald would be a challenge. However, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, an advance scout alerted Koetter that Donald is comparable to one of the NFL’s best defenders. Koetter said:

“He told me (Donald) was on the same level as (Texans star ) J.J. Watt. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s hard to believe.’ Then it came my time to watch the tape and I said, ‘Oh, wow. He’s on the same level as J.J. Watt.’ This guy is having a fantastic year. Definitely a game-wrecker for this game.”

Donald was recently named NFC Defensive Player of the Year after a three-sack performance against the Detroit Lions. That impressive day brought his total to 11 for the season.

Now, 11 sacks might not seem like a particularly amazing number. Considering his position, though, years with double-digit sacks are borderline stunning.

A defensive tackle’s primary job is to demand double teams and clog the middle, allowing defensive ends to shake one-on-one blocking and linebackers to shoot gaps to make tackles. However, Donald commands extra attention and still produces at an elite level.

Overall, Donald has tallied 19 tackles for loss on 59 total stops, which only trails Watt and Khalil Mack — who soared up the rankings after five sacks in Week 14.

When the Bucs and Rams take the field on Thursday night, St. Louis will have a key advantage.

Tampa Bay boasts the league’s No. 4 rushing attack, but the offense has to deal with a Watt-like player in Donald dominating between the guards.