When the Los Angeles Rams face the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, the game will feature a combined six Defensive Player of the Year awards. But it wasn’t until last October that Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt played in the same game for the first time.
Watt won the first meeting, a 37-10 Cardinals victory. Donald got revenge in the playoffs, a 34-11 win for the future Super Bowl champions.
So far in those two games, the pair of future Hall of Fame pass rushers have combined for a half of one sack: Donald got to Kyler Murray in the playoffs. And though Watt is long removed from his last Defensive Player of the Year award in 2015, the 12th-year pro had a sack and a batted pass against Derek Carr in his 2022 debut in Week 2.
It was only last year that Watt was also campaigning for brother T.J. Watt to beat out Aaron Donald when he matched J.J.’s three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Aaron Donald is an absolutely incredible player. I love watching him play & he’s headed to the Hall of Fame without question. This has nothing to do with AD personally.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 7, 2021
This is me saying what my brother won’t.
TJ played 1 less game and STILL led the NFL in every major category. pic.twitter.com/m1vzrD88WU
“Aaron Donald is an absolutely incredible player. I love watching him play & he’s headed to the Hall of Fame without question. This has nothing to do with AD personally. This is me saying what my brother won’t. TJ played 1 less game and STILL led the NFL in every major category.” said Watt.
Donald won the award, but a year later it was T.J. Watt’s turn to win DPOY. Donald, who does all of his dominance from inside of the trenches, whereas others only dare attack quarterbacks from the predictable edges, finished third in voting and won the Super Bowl.
Back in 2016, when Donald finished fourth in voting and had yet to win his first DPOY, he was just honored to be mentioned alongside Watt. “I still have a lot of work to do to have my name associated in a conversation with that guy and I gotta continue to put up the numbers to match,” said Donald at the time.
“That’s pretty cool. He’s one of the best defensive players — when he’s done he’ll be considered one of the best defensive players to ever play the game,” Donald said. “The things he does, the numbers he puts up, it’s hard to do. To put up 20.5 sacks and come back and do 17.5, he’s a special player and to have his name associated with mine — it’s pretty cool.”
Watt finally did leave the weakest division in the NFL for testing himself out of in the toughest division, the place where Donald racked up historic numbers. Donald sacked Kyler Murray three times in their last regular season meeting, a Rams 30-23 victory.