LA Rams Aaron Donald QB sack drop after getting paid is very alarming

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams’ inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks is the elephant in the room that has no real explanation this season. Long a strength of the Rams’ defense, this pursuit of anyone under center has never failed to record less than 40+ sacks at any time under the tenure of Rams head coach Sean McVay.

That is whether the team played 16 games or 17 games in a season. And yet, this year, the total quarterback sacks total for the LA Rams after 16 games are only 35 sacks. And with just one game remaining on the 2022 NFL schedule, the likelihood that the defense will put up five or more sacks against the Seattle Seahawks to keep the streak of 40 or more sacks per season is rapidly dimming.

Now factor in the reality that the team will be going without defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and suddenly the likelihood of keeping the streak alive seems very improbable. But this was not just a season where some rotational players on the defensive front have struggled to put up numbers. Even Aaron Donald, the great one, has shown signs of struggling this season before a high ankle sprain injury forced him to the bench for the remaining six games of the season.

Down year for Donald is very alarming

To date, the LA Rams roster has seven players who have recorded multiple quarterback sacks:

  • Name                         GP        Sacks                        17-game projection
  1. Leonard Floyd          16          8.0                                   8.5
  2. Bobby Wagner         16          6.0                                   6.5
  3. Aaron Donald           11          5.0                                   8.0
  4. Greg Gaines              15          4.0                                   4.5
  5. Michael Hoecht          6          3.5                                10.0 *
  6. Larrell Murchison      2           2.0                                17.0 **
  7. Jalen Ramsey            16          2.0                                  2.0

* Michael Hoecht has played just 6 games for the Rams at the OLB position
** Larrell Murchison has only played 2 games for the Rams

Even by projecting his 11-game total of 5.0 quarterback sacks over a 17-game season, Aaron Donald was on pace to end the 2022 NFL season with his lowest quarterback sack total of the season, at just eight quarterback sacks. That total had only happened once in his career, in 2016.

Keep in mind that this is a projected total. If Donald suddenly got hot, he may have bested his career low. But if not, he may have ended the season at 8.0 quarterback sacks or less. What we do know is that after 11 games in the 2022 NFL season, Aaron Donald’s pace was less than 0.5 QB sacks per game.

Donald didn’t deliver

Should this be concerning? You bet. The LA Rams made Aaron Donald the highest-paid non-QB in the game. By diverting so much of the Rams’ available salary cap to him, the hope was that Donald’s performance would not only remain atop the NFL but that his presence would continue to bleed over to his teammates and bolster their performance in what has come to be known as the Aaron Donald effect.

Now, the Rams must figure out some way to not only infuse more quarterback pressure in the offseason but strategize some way to make Aaron Donald’s contract much more cost-effective.

The LA Rams have two players on the roster, cross-trained OLB Michael Hoecht, and DL Larrell Murchison, whose surging production could go a long way to offset the high-cost, low production experienced by Aaron Donald’s 2022 NFL season. And there are many reasons to expect Donald, the epitome of NFL professionalism, to train harder than ever and show up atop the NFL in quarterback sacks once more.

But the reality of 2022 is not just the injuries to the offensive line. Much like the last time the LA Rams visited the Super Bowl and merrily cut huge checks for the stars in 2018, the Rams trio of newly contracted players of QB Matthew Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, and DL Aaron Donald, all failed to meet their 2022 expectations.

Too many dollars in too few pockets, again

The problem is not simply that Donald’s production dropped. It’s the combination of the team paying so much more for so much less. Because the Rams spend almost all of their salary cap allocation, that means that all those additional dollars in Donald’s pocket cannot be used to acquire the type of players who can help him, and the team, get to the quarterback.

Can the LA Rams do anything? Not really. It is what it is, and we all know the pain the team experienced when trying to reverse its commitment to RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, and QB Jared Goff. Are the Rams on a collision course with those same results in 2023? Perhaps or perhaps not. But it’s certainly worth keeping on the radar.

After all, those who do not learn history’s lessons tend to repeat the same outcomes. And the Rams appear to have learned very little from their 2019 season right now.

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