The success of the Los Angeles Rams can largely be attributed to a select number of players. On the offense, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley behind the mind of head coach Sean McVay have pushed the team to new heights. However, one of the brightest stars shines on the Rams defense.
Aaron Donald has been one of the best and most important players on the Rams since he joined the team. His play has been recognized across the nation, having earned the Associated Press’s honor for NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the last two seasons.
Recently, Donald was once again named the No. 1 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus in their annual top 50 player rankings:
Donald has single-handedly rewritten the PFF record books. He’s led his position in overall grade and pass-rush grade in every year after his rookie campaign in 2014. And he still ranked second in overall grade and third pass-rush grade as a first-year player five years ago. Four of the five best single-season pass-rush win rates in the PFF era (2006-18) belong to Donald.
From PFF’s Austin Gayle:
“We ran out of superlatives for Donald after last season, and now we’re running out of records. He’s now won PFF’s Defensive Player of the Year in three of the last four years – soon enough we’ll run out of awards, too.”
There is no denying that Donald is among the NFL elite and his stats back it up. Last year alone, Donald put up 20.5 sacks, an NFL best and most ever by a defensive tackle. That mark also places him seventh all-time on the single-season sacks list.
Thanks to his stellar, Donald got a record-breaking contract extension before the start of last season. Because of his new six-year, $134 million contract, Donald is back to training with the team after holding out the last two offseasons.
Although Donald was the only Rams representative on PFF’s top 50 list, another Rams player was not too far off. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth ranked at 52 overall on PFF’s extended list.
PFF acknowledged that Whitworth may be entering the twilight of his career at 37 years old, but still made note that the veteran tackle can still make a big difference. Whitworth is only two seasons removed from his 2017 All-Pro selection, so naming him on the list is not very surprising.
Although outside of the list, Goff and Gurley are of course elite NFL players and will help propel the team to repeated success. However, worries over Gurley’s knee have been renewed and may slow down him this upcoming season.