NFL Wire News

Donald makes push for top rookie honors


EARTH CITY, Mo. — The St. Louis Rams thought they were getting something special when they selected defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft.

However, the past is filled with highly rated defensive tackles that come to the NFL and fail. Most have ability, but were able to dominate in college against inferior opposition and weren’t able to quickly adjust to the technique needed to achieve at an NFL level.

Donald was an outlier, mostly he said because of the technique he was taught in high school by his coach, Demond Gibson. That combined with his natural ability has Donald receiving strong consideration as defensive rookie of the year.

With two games remaining, he has 8.0 sacks, most of all rookies at any position, and he is third in the NFL among all defensive tackles. He has a sack in each of the last five games, and also has 15 tackles for loss.

Donald doesn’t possess great size, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Rams defensive line coach Mike Waufle told the Post-Dispatch what amazed him most about Donald at the scouting combine was his time in the first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash.

“He’s extremely quick,” Waufle said. “He has one of the fastest 10-yard times that I’ve ever timed.”

Even for the 40, Donald ran a 4.68, which was the fifth highest of all defensive linemen at the combine.

After blinking when he saw the time for Donald after 10 yards, Waufle added, “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is unbelievable.’ He has that initial quickness that people have a hard time with. He’s got natural leverage. He’s extremely strong.”

The Rams’ last two opponents have certainly noticed Donald. When Arizona coach Bruce Arians was asked what concerns he had about facing Donald, he said, “Ha, ha. Everything. I like everything about him, and all of it concerns me. He’s a high-motor, very talented young guy that I was really sad to see go to the Rams because we’ve got to play him twice every year.”

The week before, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “He’s just a relentless rusher. Man, he gets straight penetration, uses his hands extremely well in the pass, and really holds up in the run game. I think the concern of him coming out was maybe he wouldn’t hold up in the running game on double-teams and all of that, but he does a good job in the run game also. Very disruptive player, and that’s what you want from your three-technique.”

As for awards, Donald should be a shoo-in for the all-rookie team and could also lay claim to a spot in the Pro Bowl. As for defensive rookie of the year honors, Waufle’s in his corner.

“No question,” he said. “I mean, he’s one of the better defensive tackles in the league, period, regardless of anything.”

Donald even admits he has thought about it a little bit, probably because it’s talked about so much. But he’s still focusing on the final two games of the season.

He told the Post-Dispatch of the rookie award, “That’d be an amazing accomplishment. But right now I’ve got more games left. Right now, I’m just worried about the season. After these games are over, then that’s when I’ll start worrying about that.”

He probably won’t have to worry too much.

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