Aaron Donald Remains The Most Important Non QB

Aaron Donald And Leonard Floyd. Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels | Under Creative Commons License
Aaron Donald And Leonard Floyd. Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels | Under Creative Commons License

The Rams most important player in the 2021 season is unequivocally Matthew Stafford. He’s touted as the missing piece and the guy to smash through their ceiling at quarterback, and if he’s awesome, the Rams could win a title. Now beyond him who is the most important player?

Is it Andrew Whitworth, Austin Blythe, or some other offensive lineman that’s charged with protecting Stafford? Is it Cam Akers or some other young gun whose evolution could swing the season? Or is it someone completely under the radar? Nope. The answer is and always will be Aaron Donald.

Is it the boring answer? Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Donald is coming into the season with a third defensive player of the year award and can already start planning his eventual Hall of Fame speech. His impact on the field will be obvious but his impact off the field will be even more important.

For the second year in a row, a pass rusher that played alongside Aaron Donald will get PAID. Like Dante Fowler before him, Leonard Floyd raised his stock to such a degree that the Rams are obviously not keeping him because (take a drink) the Rams don’t have the cap space to do so. It’s not likely Floyd will bet on himself a second year in a row when the few teams that will actually have money will drop the bag on a guy who registered 10.5 sacks.

So, once again the Rams will have to take another vet pass rusher that isn’t in the Leonard Floyd/Bud Dupree tier. What does Donald have to do with that? Well, any mid-tier pass rushers looking for a ring and a “prove it” deal of their own see Donald as the perfect conduit to that. It’s almost a scientific fact at this point that having a one-man gang that opposing coaches painstakingly plan around, makes everyone else better. He’s the best recruiting tool the Rams have and while they missed out on J.J. Watt because Arizona made a case that moved him…TO A BIGGER HOUSE. But, the Rams could wind up with one or two free agents that wish to benefit from the Aaron Donald effect.

Aaron Donald is once again going to be the most impactful person on the field aside from Stafford. He has arguably a tougher task than Stafford given that the offense will function the same (but with a more mobile QB that can huck it), whereas Donald has to usher in a new scheme for the second year in a row.

The Rams lost Brandon Staley to the crosstown “rival” Chargers and hired Raheem Morris. Morris said he wasn’t going to fix a defense that wasn’t broken so schematically it will retain some of the tenants of that defense but with Morris’s own flourishes. Regardless of what they run, Donald and Ramsey are the engines that drive the defense, and they not only need to buy in but make sure everyone else buys in. What’s different this year besides the coach and presumably the personnel is that for the first time, Aaron Donald was proven to be mortal.

Despite winning defensive player of the year, Aaron Donald’s season ended in tears. Tears because for the first time he couldn’t be the Kaiju he needed to be. In the Seattle game, he tore rib cartilage while taking down Russell Wilson for the umpteenth time in his career. He did everything in his power to play the following week but try as he might, he couldn’t make an impact.

When Donald proved ineffective, the rest of the defense struggled to get any type of pressure and Aaron Rodgers ran roughshod over the number one defense in the league, to the point where you could hear him working on his proposal to Shailene Woodley at the line of scrimmage.

When Donald went down in Seattle the defense was able to rally but as everyone knows, the Seattle line is easier to get into than Arizona State. Donald will likely be back to his normal world-dominating self, but teams have seen Thanos bleed. He’ll still be double and triple-teamed but it’s possible that all that wear and tear could catch up to him. If it does then the defense is in trouble because they don’t have anyone else in the front seven to consistently pick up the slack. He has no margin for error if the defense is to be anywhere near where it was a year ago.

Matthew Stafford will receive the former lion’s share of the spotlight for obvious reasons but Aaron Donald is the guy that will determine whether they can make a Super Bowl run. On the field, he is tasked with implementing Raheem Morris’s new scheme and elevating their mediocre linebacker corps. He’s also going to be the reason the Rams score one or two big free agents. Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the league and the most important player on the Rams not throwing the ball downfield, though if asked, he could probably do that too.

Aaron Donald And Leonard Floyd. Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels | Under Creative Commons License

Aaron Donald And Leonard Floyd. Photo Credit: All-Pro Reels | Under Creative Commons License