We as a football community have never seen a defensive player as good as Aaron Donald. He is a six time AP First Team All-Pro, a seven time pro bowler, and the 2017, 2018, and 2020 AP Defensive Player of the Year along with having 12+ sacks each of the last three years, yet no one seems to truly appreciate the greatness we’re watching. Let’s put the big man under the microscope and analyze just how good Aaron Donald is.
The first thing to establish is positional difficulty. Generally the players who produce the highest sack numbers are edge rushers. Guys who have to beat a tackle and have a whole half of the field to use in order to get to the quarterback. So when you think about the fact that Aaron Donald has to beat a guard, the person that is generally the largest on the team, and is wedged in between a tackle and a center, makes you realize just how good his numbers are. A mind boggling 20.5 sacks in 2018 while playing on the interior of the defensive line is the stuff legends are made of.
Now that we are grasping the greatness of producing as much as Donald has while playing on the interior we need to understand what he is really up against on a snap by snap basis. Aaron Donald is double teamed on around 70% of his snaps. For some perspective, the next closest percentage in the league regardless of position is a little under 30%. Aaron Donald, an interior defensive lineman, is double teamed approximately 40% more than the nearest edge rusher. He is so dominant that teams don’t even attempt to leave their guards one on one regardless of how good a coach may think his lineman are. We have never ever seen a double team rate like that of Aaron Donald’s and he has still been top ten in sacks for the last three years.
This dominance is alike that of the legends that are Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, and Reggie White. We may never see talent like Aaron Donald ever again in our lifetime and we complain that he isn’t putting up twenty sacks every year. Donald makes every other player on his defense look elite and makes opposing offensive lineman look like Pop Warner players. The next time you are blessed enough to watch the Rams play, sit down and enjoy the first ballot Hall of Famer and the legendary player that is Aaron Donald.