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.
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 25, 2015
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.