If Aaron Donald retired today he would probably go down as the best defensive tackle in NFL history.
Did I mention that he isn’t even 30 years old yet?
He has led the league in pressures three out of the last four years, as a defensive tackle.
Since PFF started tracking pressures in 2006, no defensive tackle has ever led the league in pressures, and yes, Aaron Donald has really done it three times in a four year span and has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Impact on team success
For the first time in Aaron Donald’s career, the Los Angeles Rams made a strong case for best defense in the NFL.
They were lead by coaching phenom, Brandon Staley, who after just one year as an NFL coordinator landed the Los Angeles Chargers head coaching job.
Needless to say, The Rams defense was filled to the brim with playing and coaching talent, but without Donald, they are just an above-average defense.
Unfortunately, Donald cracked his ribs in the wildcard round and was nowhere near 100 percent healthy in the divisional round against Green Bay.
With Donald only playing around half of the snaps against the Packers and only playing as a shell of his usual self, the Rams were not able to muster an ounce of pressure even against a banged-up offensive line.
Aaron Donald played through torn rib cartilage in LA’s loss to the Packers today. Gave it everything he had.
Salute, 99. pic.twitter.com/l0xgMNet5A
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) January 17, 2021
Makes his teammates’ lives easier
Not only does Donald create pressure directly from himself, but he commands so many double and even triple teams that other talented pass rushers have one on one matchups all day long.
They were both top 10 picks that struggled to find their place in the NFL early on in their career, even though they were both part of two of the best defenses we have seen in the last five years.
Before being shipped out to LA, Fowler’s best year saw him register 39 pressures and nine sacks.
In his first full season lined up next to Donald, Fowler racked up 67 pressures and even had more sacks than Donald with 15.
This was the last year of Fowler’s contract so the Falcons signed him to a three-year, $45,000,000 contract, and boy was that a mistake.
In 14 games with Atalanta this year, Fowler’s pressures plummeted to 30 and he sacked the quarterback a measly four times.
This year Leonard Floyd benefitted greatly from being on the same team as Donald.
Even on a great Chicago defensive line featuring guys like Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd’s career highs in pressures and sacks were 39 and 7 respectively, almost identical to Fowler’s career highs pre-Donald.
For any Aaron Donald fan it was no surprise that in his first year in Los Angeles, Floyd had 45 pressures and 11 sacks, setting new career-highs in both categories.
Just like Dante Fowler, he was on a contract year and I expect he will go get overpaid somewhere else, just like Dante Fowler.
Sometimes I think to myself "I need to make more responsible decisions with my money."
And then I look at the Dante Fowler contract. pic.twitter.com/cHoFvXl6FB
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) January 20, 2021
Most QB pressures since 2014:
🔹 Aaron Donald – 579
🔹 Khalil Mack – 504
The only players over 500 😤 💪 pic.twitter.com/0sD2ovcalS
— PFF (@PFF) January 15, 2021
Not only has Donald been absolutely dominant these past four years, but what might be even more impressive is his consistency.
He has been in the league for seven seasons and has been dominant since the first time he stepped on an NFL field.
He started off his career by winning defensive rookie of the year as well as being named to the pro bowl.
Since that rookie year, he has been selected to six straight pro bowls and six straight first-team all-pro selections.
To top it all of he has won defensive player of the year twice, he could be on his way to taking that award home once again this year and was named number one overall on the player’s top 100 for the 2018 season.
As a result, he was a unanimous selection to the NFL’s all-decade team and is currently the best football player on the planet.