The Los Angeles Rams are 5-2 and have already played in primetime three times this season, including Monday night’s 24-10 victory over the Chicago Bears. The Rams allowed zero touchdowns to be scored by the Bears offense and they improved to second in points allowed per game, ranking only 0.4 points behind the Baltimore Ravens, and the best player on that defense is also the guy who we’ve heard variations of this phrased uttered about on those primetime broadcasts more than once this year:
“Best player in the NFL.”
Well, maybe it’s time for those people to shut their mouths about how generational Donald is as a football player and to start showing that they mean it.
The 2020 MVP award will go to a quarterback unless Derrick Henry breaks off three more 90-yard runs for the 14-2 Tennessee Titans and finishes with 2,100 rushing yards, which is not impossible. What does seem impossible is any player other than a quarterback or running back being seriously considered as the most valuable player in the league.
Which I find to be odd because Aaron Donald is so often described as the best player and even though I understand the concept that a defensive lineman can’t provide the same value as a quarterback (setting aside the backwards logic created by some voters that a running back is able to provide the same or more value than the quarterback), if a QB is regularly carried or buried by his supporting cast, then what about the immediate surroundings of a premier defensive lineman?
Donald is second in the NFL with eight sacks and tied for first with T.J. Watt at 15 QB hits. He has reached these numbers despite regularly being double and triple-teamed while playing in a front-seven that features Michael Brockers, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Micah Kiser, Leonard Floyd and a carousel of other linebackers. The fact that Floyd now has four sacks and that the team is tied for the third-most sacks in the league is a testament to the value that Aaron Donald provides on defense.
Aaron Donald vs Chicago— PFF (@PFF) October 27, 2020
36 pass-rush snaps
10 QB pressures pic.twitter.com/xLmI858HIF
If Aaron Donald comes off the field for a series, we know the impact that has on the defense, including to a secondary featuring another Defensive Player of the Year candidate with Jalen Ramsey. But not even Ramsey provides the same value as Donald and hopefully also doesn’t cut into his chances for awards this season.
Voters can also have the confidence of knowing that Aaron Donald has long been considered a Hall of Fame caliber player and in fact his half-sack on Monday night against the Bears — in which LA sacked Nick Foles four times despite the fact that he had only been sacked four times in four games prior to facing Donald’s defense — put him ahead of Chandler Jones for the most sacks by a player since 2014.
Aaron Donald is a menace, like what?? pic.twitter.com/1qpuPMMm7G— Athlete Tweets ➐ (@AthleteTweetts) October 27, 2020
In that time, Donald has 39 more tackles for a loss and 54 more QB hits than Jones, an edge rusher.
Donald’s toughest competition for MVP (and I used that word loosely, because I don’t have an ounce of belief in my heart that voters will take the “chance” to elect the first non-QB, non-RB as MVP since Lawrence Taylor in 1986) right now is probably Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.
Wilson took his first loss on Sunday and threw three interceptions in the process. Wilson tied a record with 22 touchdown passes through six games but the Seahawks defense could struggle enough to keep Seattle out of the number one seed in the NFC; whoever wins number one seeds will probably get first dibs on MVP given the importance of that position now as compared to the other six berths per conference.
If Wilson throws 55 touchdowns but adds 18 interceptions in the process, he’s going to have some detractors for MVP. Among those detractors could be Donald during his two showdowns against the Seahawks in the second half of the season.
AaRoN dOnAlD iS bAd AgAiNsT tHe RuN pic.twitter.com/guNrLd9RUu— Tyler Forness (@TheRealForno) October 27, 2020
Brady threw four touchdowns against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, giving him 18 on the year with four interceptions. Despite playing with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and featuring a strong running game with Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, plus a breakout campaign by Scotty Miller, I’m sure Brady will win MVP if voters get their chance to give it a 43 year old they’ve always loved anyway.
The Rams play the Bucs on Monday Night Football in Week 11. Brady vs. Donald could potentially be decided right there.
Rodgers has two MVP awards already and he leads the league in QBR, something he hasn’t done since winning MVP in 2011. Rodgers won again in 2014. He led the NFL in adjusted net yards per attempt both times and he’s doing that again in 2020. The Packers are also 5-1 and while Davante Adams could be an all-pro, Rodgers doesn’t have to explain how great his supporting cast is, even if they’re better than what they get credit for.
LA and GB do not meet this season.
According to ESPN Metrics and NFL Next Gen Stats, Aaron Donald had a season-high 9 pass rush wins on Monday, including 5 against double-teams.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 27, 2020
It's the 2nd time this season Donald has had 5 pass rush wins versus double teams, more than the rest of the NFL combined. pic.twitter.com/Jku9UUPhjI
Of course, Donald must also hold Garrett at bay if he’s going to be the first defensive player to win the award in 35 years. The Cleveland Browns edge rusher has nine sacks and four forced fumbles in the last six games alone and the Browns are claiming that they can compete in the AFC North; but their two losses this season were 38-6 to the Ravens and 38-7 to the Steelers.
Four NFL players have reached 20 defensive pressures so far in 2020:— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 27, 2020
23 - TJ Watt
21 - Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa
20 - Aaron Donald
For Aaron Donald to win MVP, so many things have to happen that it makes it nearly hopeless. The conversation needs to already be started though. They were talking about Russell Wilson and Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes (don’t even need to explain why he’s a favorite) in Week and so Donald has ground to make up and you should care about the conversation because MVP is all about the conversation.
People are afraid to challenge a commonly held narrative and if “your player” isn’t in front of that narrative, good luck approaching the horde with your radical idea of considering someone else for MVP.
Aaron Donald needs to be at the front of that MVP conversation and it needs to start today.