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Random Ramsdom, 1/22: Aaron Donald named Defensive Player of the Year by PFF

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Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans (while most NFL superstars of this caliber wouldn’t need their team name necessarily said in accordance with their own name, we now live in a world where two Watts and two Bosas could be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation on a perennial basis) won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2012, 2014, and 2015. He became only the second player in history to win the award three times, joining Lawrence Taylor, who did so in 1981, 1982, and 1986.

Taylor won the award as a rookie and in his second season (which was the strike-shortened ‘82 campaign), but was also a viable candidate in many other years, as shown by the fact that he was first-team All-Pro eight times. Taylor lost the award to Miami’s Doug Betters in 1983, when he came from nowhere to record 16 sacks in only the second season that sacks began to be tracked. He lost again in ‘84 when Kenny Easley recorded 10 interceptions for the surprising Seahawks. And he lost the award in ‘85 when Mike Singletary was viewed as the best player on the best defense of all-time. (Or so some say.)

Taylor never lost to a player who wasn’t worthy, but his next best shot for four would’ve probably come in 1989 when he had 15 sacks for a Giants defense that was second in points allowed. Keith Millard, a former first round pick of the Vikings who played his first professional season in the USFL, had been the most dominating defensive tackle in the league as a pass rusher since his first campaign in ‘85. He was a first-team All-Pro in ‘88, but blew the doors off in ‘89 with 18 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He won Defensive Player of the Year over Taylor in a season in which he broke the record for most sacks by a defensive tackle.

A record that was held until 2018, when Aaron Donald put up 20.5 sacks and won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. His argument for three straight is a good one and as you’ve probably noticed by now, he was given that honor by ProFootballFocus this week. Now it’s the Associated Press’s turn.

It’s funny to think that Donald’s 12.5 sacks in 2019 seems like a slight departure from his greatness even though it’s the second-most he’s ever recorded and seventh-most overall. It was also the most by a defensive tackle and three more than second-place Jordan Phillips. Donald also led the league in tackles for a loss (20) for the second straight season. His 55 pressures was second-most behind T.J. Watt. His 32 hurries ranked first.

12.5 sacks would also be tied for the most in any season by Geno Atkins, a future Hall of Fame defensive tackle. Same for John Randle and Randy White, two current Hall of Famers.

This is a much longer intro to a links post than you’ve likely ever seen, but now you know that I think Donald is the best defensive player in the NFL and quite possibly the best overall since Taylor.

PFF names Aaron Donald Defensive Player of the Year - Cardia Chill

Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman and Pitt great Aaron Donald was named the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus on Monday. The analytics website pointed to his 80 total pressures and improved run defense among other factors in its decision to honor Donald.

”Aaron Donald was once again the best defender in football this season, even if we can acknowledge that the gap between him and the field was closer this year than in seasons past,” wrote Sam Monson of PFF. “Donald led all interior defenders in total pressures this season, with 80, which was 18 more than any other interior player. That’s phenomenal, but coming from a season in which he led all defenders by around the same margin, it looks somehow underwhelming.”

Can LA Rams find future OL left tackle in 2020 NFL Draft? - Ramblin Rams

It’s reality check time for the LA Rams. Right now, the team is projecting a huge vacancy in the offensive line at left tackle. Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth is a free agent this season, What’s worse is the was LA Rams general manager allowed the team to fall into this predicament. Whitworth is 38 years old, and the team knew that his contract expired this season.

Los Angeles Rams: 3 early free agency targets for the offseason - Clutch Points

With Antony Castonzo likely representing the best offensive lineman on the market, LA could very well move in that direction.

Castonzo has spent the first nine years of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, and while he has never made a Pro Bowl, he has been very solid and has been one of the NFL’s most underrated tackles throughout his tenure.

Will Brandon Staley push Rams to keep Dante Fowler over Cory Littleton? - RamsWire

The Rams would love to keep Fowler, but he might price himself out of their range. After all, pass rushers are always coveted in free agency and typically have a long list of suitors – especially the better pass rushers. Cory Littleton’s impending free agency will also play a role in Fowler’s future, since the Rams can’t afford to keep both of them.

Sean McVay shows he’s taking more control with hiring of Brandon Staley - RamsWire

Having been on the job for three years now, McVay is displaying another level of maturity with his latest hire. He’s replacing Phillips at defensive coordinator with 37-year-old Brandon Staley, an unexpected move, but one that does come with some risk.

Rams QB Jared Goff remains California Strong - LA Rams

Rams quarterback Jared Goff teamed up with Major League Baseball players and fellow California natives Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and Mike Moustakas to host the second annual California Strong celebrity softball game at Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Trading Jared Goff pick a major part of Titans’ roster construction - PFT

The Rams, who drafted Jared Goff, gave the Titans two first-round picks, two second-round picks and two third-round picks in the deal, which also saw the Titans send fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Rams. The Titans made some more trades with those picks they got from the Rams, and in the end acquired five players who are now playing for them in the playoffs: offensive tackle Jack Conklin, defensive tackle Austin Johnson, running back Derrick Henry, wide receiver Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith.

Derrick Henry Will Be NFL’s Most Coveted Free-Agent RB; Where Could He Land? - Bleacher Report

The 2016 second-round pick just turned 26, and his light workload from his first three seasons—he carried the ball just 167 times per year on average before running it a league-high 303 times in 2019—could bode well for his chances of sustaining his Pro Bowl-level play for several seasons to come.

Still, you’ll find a lot of teams just aren’t willing to pay up for players at a devalued, volatile position. Henry might have been the best back in the league during the second half of the 2019 campaign, but his market will likely be pretty small in comparison to star players at premium positions.

NFL free agents 2020: Amari Cooper, A.J. Green lead this year’s available wide receivers - Cleveland

Amari Cooper of the Dallas Cowboys and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals are the standouts in this year’s free-agent class among receivers. However, who are the best available? With the help of Pro Football Focus’ grades, the top 10 can be found below.

Going Inside Fascinating 2020 NFL Free Agent Quarterback Class - Forbes

Tom Brady

What to expect: This is the most fascinating case. One would expect Brady to stay with the team he has won a record six Super Bowl rings with for his 21st season. But there are reports that Brady will shop himself around the league. Common sense would suggest he is back in New England, but there is a lot of smoke building here.

Ranking the 10 NFL playoff losers’ chances of winning Super Bowl LV in 2021 - CBS Sports

One year after it claimed the Bears, the regression monster could be coming for the Packers following a 14-4 season (including the playoffs) that saw them post a 9-1 record in one-score games (also including the playoffs). Their point differential in the regular season was plus-63. For the sake of comparison, a 49ers team that posted the same record in the regular season had a plus-169 point differential. Based on their point differential, the Packers’ expected win total was 9.7.

They overachieved.