I think a good name for a superhero’s alter ego would be Donald Brockers. Maybe Dr. Donald Brockers. He could be a scrawny geek who can’t help but trip over his own beakers as he’s working in the lab one night and then something gets spilled on him, he passes out, and wakes up as the most dominant defensive player of the 2010s.
Which I guess would just mean that he’s Aaron Donald, but yeah there’s no reason to not give him a little bit of Michael Brockers’ powers too.
As ProFootballFocus posted on Wednesday morning, Donald and Brockers were a pretty potent pair, particularly in pass pressure and run stopping. PFF says that the LA Rams had the third-most valuable defensive line last season and with Brockers re-signed on a three-year deal and A’Shawn Robinson signing in free agency when it seemed like Brockers had left via free agency, it’s hard to imagine why the Rams defensive line will be getting any worse barring injury.
Most valuable DL in 2019— PFF (@PFF) June 10, 2020
4. Buccaneers pic.twitter.com/CSUpGBpWcz
Donald, 29, is going into his seventh NFL season. He has made the Pro Bowl every year and has been a first team All-Pro in every campaign other than as a rookie, when he still would’ve had a good argument for first team All-Pro. Building that entire defense around Donald, LA brought back Brockers, also 29, for a ninth season with the team. Brockers has only missed two games in the last eight years and while he has none of the accolades like Donald, he’s been maybe as productive as you could expect from a 3-4 d-lineman next to a player of that caliber.
Brockers had nine QB hits and three sacks last season.
The other player who got considerable time on the defensive line in 2019 who will also be coming back is Sebastian Joseph-Day. The 25-year-old didn’t play during what would have been his rookie season in 2018 but then took part in 44% of the defensive snaps and made 44 tackles with two sacks. However, the team signed Robinson and he’ll be eating into those snaps as the Rams look for another defensive lineman who can take pressure off of Donald and free him up to do even more dominant work against NFL offenses.
Robinson has been praised for his run defense and his ability to draw and handle double teams. LA actually improved their run defense in 2019 after below average-to-fairly bad run defenses in the first two years under McVay, but Robinson could help the team go from 10th in run defense DVOA to perhaps even in the top five. However, there is still a whole “everyone behind the defensive line” unit and if they had also ranked in the top-three by PFF last season, we’d be talking about the 2019 Rams in a different light.
There is talent there though. Will they be mild mannered or is 2020 gonna bust out the superhero cape?