LA Rams DT Aaron Donald is double-teamed more than any other NFL player, and still wins annual accolades. Can he help new teammates replace outgoing free agents?
The LA Rams have one of the best all time NFL defenders on the roster. He is defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and he is a wrecking ball when he faces off against offensive linemen. His 2019 performance resulted in much of the same annual award which Rams fans have come to expect.
He was named All Pro, his fifth designation in just six years of playing in the NFL.
He was named Pro Foootball Focus’ Defensive Player of the Year.
He was nominated for his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl over his six years playing in the NFL.
So why haven’t NFL offenses focused on Donald? Ah, but they have. In fact, the NFL double teams Aaron Donald more than any other NFL player. The reality is that Aaron Donald is just that good.
In 2019, Donald took 926 total snaps. With 319 double teams, that means he was facing two blocks more frequently than 33 percent of the time. Surely that means his teammates would benefit from single blocking, and for the most part, they have.
Three of Donald’s teammates enter the NFL Free Agency market this year: OLB Dante Fowler Jr., DE Michael Brockers, and ILB Cory Littleton. While have have put up substantial number in 2019, the question remains whether that same level of production can be duplicated on a defense without an Aaron Donald?
So the next question must be asked as well. Would the Rams be wise to line up new teammates next to Donald for 2020, and have realistic expectations for similar high production in 2020?
While the Rams could certainly expect some benefit to whomever lines up in the vicinity of Donald, the team has to weigh that “large shadow” effect with the impact of Donald attracting so very much of an offense’s attention. We’ve discussed double teams here, but Donald has attracted triple teams also. In fact, the Seattle Seahawks were photographed committing four offensive linemen to block Donald on a play.
With little free space available in the annual salary cap allotment, the Rams must weigh free agency moves very carefully. But perhaps equally important is the need for the Rams to seed additional double team targets on the defensive front. After all, everyone agrees that Donald played lights out when lined up next to Ndamukong Suh. Despite offenses double-teaming Aaron Donald more than any other defender, he continues to wreck havoc. It’s up to the Rams to lessen the burden on Donald to ensure he can continue to do so.