While we wait for word from Aaron Donald, the LA Rams, the NFL, or the Pittsburgh police department regarding an alleged assault that occurred early Sunday morning, reportedly involving Donald, it is worth noting again just how transcendent and historically unique he has been as a football player since entering the league in 2014. Donald has only missed two of a possible 112 games in his career, and he’s been active for six of six playoff games, albeit in a limited capacity in LA’s most recent postseason loss.
It would certainly be a devastating blow to the Rams defense to lose Donald for any period of time, just as it was to see Donald miss half of the snaps in the 2020 playoffs because of a ribs injury.
Last season, Donald won his third AP Defensive Player of the Year award, recording 13.5 sacks and 28 quarterback hits for LA’s number one ranked defense. He also led the NFL in Pro-Football-Reference’s Adjusted Value metric, a first time accomplishment for Donald, with 20.
Donald’s full career combined AV of 114 since being drafted in 2014 (AV is a cumulative or volume stat) is the second-highest in the NFL over the last seven seasons, falling only one “point” behind first place Russell Wilson at 115. As a quarterback though, Wilson has a significant advantage towards getting a higher AV. Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner is third overall and second among defensive players with an AV of 109 in that time, but the next-closest defensive player would be Calais Campbell at 95 AV.
I do not love AV as a stat or a concept really, but no matter how you measure it, Aaron Donald’s been the best defensive player in the NFL for quite some time and he would have been a justified choice as the league MVP in 2020.
There is no good reason to speculate on the situation involving Donald, especially so early in the process and before so many other people, including Donald, have had a chance to speak or share information. But when it comes to the Rams, it’s always relevant to talk about Donald’s presence on the football field.
Never was that more apparent as when the Green Bay Packers beat LA in the divisional round 32-18, giving up a season-worst 484 total yards (only game with over 400 yards allowed), 296 passing yards (season-worst), and 188 rushing yards (season-worst) as Donald sat out for roughly half the game and was hobbled due to his injury during the other half.
Donald’s availability to the Rams, especially after dealing for Matthew Stafford to push all-in next season, has never been more important.