Aaron Donald is the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Donald is the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Donald is the best defender in the NFL. He is deserving of the Defensive Player of the Year award for the 3rd straight year.
Donald, after his record-breaking season last year – where he racked up 20.5 sacks and nearly broke Michael Strahan’s single-season record – came into this season with heightened expectations. With the eyes solely on him in the DPOY race to start the year, he looked to be lost in the shuffle.
Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay’s star outside linebacker, had racked up eight sacks in the first three weeks and he looked to be running away with the award. Then, he slowed down. Only racking up 2.5 sacks (which the voters for DPOY greatly appreciate) in the following five weeks. Barrett has raised his sack total to 16.5 near the end of the season, but with Tampa Bay’s lack of relevance and Barrett’s hot play taking a slight dip, AD began his quest for a three-peat.
From week five through week 13, Donald had 8.5 sacks and dominated nearly every Rams game through that period. Overall, Donald has 49 pressures (number 3 in the entire league), 28 QB hurries, and nine QB knockdowns, the same amount as another DPOY cantidate Nick Bosa. Every stat is top-5 for interior defensive linemen. Donald has also earned a 93.5 PFF grade, which is also tops for interior linemen. Donald’s 11 sacks so far in the 2019 season are the best at his position and 7th in the league, and his 19 tackles for loss are one and the same.
He simply is the best in the game. Voter’s fatigue will be the only reason Donald doesn’t break records and win his third straight DPOY. Donald’s biggest competition is New England’s Stephon Gilmore (6 INT, 48.5% comp. percentage), San Francisco’s Nick Bosa (9 sacks, 36 pressures), and Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett (16.5 sacks, 43 pressures, and 13 QB knockdowns). Two other names I’d consider in the conversatioin: Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter (13.5 sacks, 21 QB hits, 34 pressures) and the Steelers’ T.J Watt (13 sacks, 31 QB hits, 53 pressures). All of these names should be in the running.
On top of Aaron Donald’s statistical dominance, the Rams defense relies on him more than any other defense does with their star player. What would this defense be without AD? Donald is double-teamed at a higher rate than every other defensive lineman and even triple-teamed more than anyone else in the league; he is also doing all of this as an interior defensive lineman, none of the players mentioned play the same spot as Donald.
Donald may have not lived up to the unworldly expectations he set for himself last year, but he is still the best defender and maybe the best player in the entire NFL, and that is saying something.
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