THOUSAND OAKS — Aaron Donald eventually will sign a new contract with the Rams, and when it’s time for Donald’s agent and the team to crunch numbers and compare stats, they should just ignore them.
Donald has six sacks this season, which doesn’t even rank in the NFL’s top 30. He has 29 tackles, which ranks him precisely 292nd in the league. And Donald is, with little question, the most dominant defensive tackle in the league and is a low-profile candidate for defensive player of year.
Why shouldn’t he be? Donald’s lack of flashy stats is the ultimate compliment. Offensive linemen double team him. Quarterbacks sprint away from him. Offensive coordinators scheme plays away from him. This could be, even though stats betray it, the most dominant of Donald’s four NFL seasons.
“He’s better than everybody,” Rams first-year defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said, “and I didn’t know he was better than everybody. I thought he was good, but I didn’t know he was better than everybody.”
Some of the stats are there. Donald, for instance, has forced three fumbles in 10 games this season. He forced a total of four in his first 48 NFL games. Unofficially, Donald leads the NFL in quarterback pressures, and analytics websites consistently rank him as the league’s top defensive lineman.
Then there’s the eye test. Donald missed all of training camp, and the first week of the season, because of a contract holdout, and took a while to play his way into game shape. Starting with the Oct. 15 game at Jacksonville, Donald has recorded five sacks and three forced fumbles in six games.
“It doesn’t take a coach to see that,” Phillips said. “If you just watch him during the game or watch a film of the game, the whole game you just watch him the whole game and you see how he dominates, even against two blockers. Those great players, they obviously are going to affect the game and he does that.”
Donald had a virtuoso performance last Sunday against New Orleans. He tied his season high with five tackles, sacked quarterback Drew Brees on the Saints’ third play and set the tone on a day when the Rams held the high-powered Saints offense to 20 points.
“Any time you go up against a quarterback like that, you want to get to him early,” Donald said. “I thought we did a good job. Multiple guys were flying around making plays. It was a big key for us to get some pressure on him, and that’s what we did.”
The challenge is different this…