The Los Angeles Rams may very well have two of the top contenders for the Defensive Player of the year Award this season in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Donald is coming off of his third DPOY award after another dominant season. With new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris planning to fully unleash his star cornerback in his defensive scheme, will Donald be able to hold off Ramsey for his fourth DPOY award?
Aaron Donald: 94.2 grade in 2020 ( among all defenders)— PFF (@PFF) August 28, 2021
PFF’s No. 1️⃣ player heading into 2021#NFLTop100 No. 2️⃣ pic.twitter.com/IzbSdfsAW6
Donald’s path to the award is already etched in stone after winning it three times in his seven-year career with the Rams: be dominate.
Donald is an absolute game-wrecker when he is on the field, even if the sacks aren’t necessarily piling up for him. The sheer amount of attention pulled in his direction helps others on the defensive line to make impactful plays. With consistent double-teams and sometimes even triple-teams on 99, other rushers are left with one on ones that they are expected to beat—which in 2020 they did as LA as a whole ranked number two in total sacks with 53.
Donald does not need to put up insane numbers like he did in 2018 when he had 20.5 sacks as an interior rusher to win DPOY. In his 2017 and 2020 DPOY campaign he had 11 sacks and 13.5 sacks, respectively. His consistent dismantling of opposing offensive lines and utter dominance over other human beings on the football field is enough to put him in the running for DPOY every year, and possibly even in the MVP discussion.
They should just start calling it the Aaron Donald award https://t.co/xchkyM3SLz— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) September 3, 2021
Ramsey’s path to the award is a little less easy to predict.
While Donald has a chance to make a play on every snap, Ramsey on the other hand needs to be in the right place at the right time—and that’s a little difficult when the opposing team will not even target you. In 2020, he was targeted only 71 times and of those only allowed 36 completions for 345 yards and one interception.
The pass rush forcing the QB into a mistake by the name of Jalen Ramsey! Let’s hope to see more of this next week! pic.twitter.com/FVX6oUceWa— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) September 5, 2021
Stephon Gilmore was the most recent cornerback voted as the DPOY in 2019. In that season the cornerback led the NFL in both interceptions with six and passes defended with 20, but was targeted 101 times while only allowing 51 completions. Gilmore also kept his records clean from any touchdowns—not allowing a single one in his 101 targets. Charles Woodson in 2009 also claimed the DPOY as a cornerback with a league leading nine interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns.
Ramsey may have only himself to blame for his low number of interceptions, which may be a huge factor in his DPOY-less career. With just 11 in his five years in the NFL he has made himself to be an absolute dominate player on the field that opposing quarterbacks are just too afraid to test. The other factor working against him is that he has Donald lining up in front of him wreaking havoc on NFL offenses.
CINCO MODE— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 22, 2021
@jalenramsey is the top CB on this year’s #NFLTop100! pic.twitter.com/nHm4IoxbS3
The saving grace for Ramsey this season might just be his new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. We will not know for certain until LA’s 2021 debut against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, but in a press conference earlier this offseason Morris talked highly of Ramsey’s versatility as a player. This could mean we will see Ramsey all over the field in different positions to keep the opposing team guessing. If the game plan is to keep the ball away from Ramsey, then maybe the solution is to force Ramsey to the ball.
(12:26) “He’s one of those guys that can go anywhere—outside, inside, outside linebacker. You can put him almost anywhere. It would not shock me if he could play snapper three technique the way he’s going. He’s just that type of special player. He wants to be in the action. A lot of times when you’re the shutdown corner you’ve been a shut down corner for so long, people have ways of getting away from you until its the critical moments and he’s obviously stood up in those critical moments and made big plays and that’s why he is who he is. Every once in awhile you want to get in the mix, get a little dirty, get your hands in there and be able to do some good things.”
LA’s top cornerback will most likely need to lead the NFL in interception and/or passes defended this season to steal the award from Aaron Donald.
With Morris on the Rams payroll though, it might just not be out of his grasp. Donald on the other hand will just have to be himself and continue his dominance on the turf. Who do you think will win the award this season?