While he has not yet ascended to the top of the mountain, it is very obvious that Aaron Donald has made his way into the same all-time group as greats like Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White. With the defensive tackle returning to the Los Angeles Rams for at least one more season, he has another shot to cement himself as one of the greats.
For Donald, his rise to fame has been quite linear, dating back to his days in college. As the 13th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, Donald has been highly regarded for quite some time, but becoming the best defensive player currently in the league didn’t seem like a likely outcome back then.
But what puts Donald in that prestigious company alongside the likes of Taylor and White?
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3 Reasons Why Aaron Donald Is In Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White Territory
3. His Ability to Impact Every Play, Every Game
It is no secret that Donald’s impact on the Rams’ defense is indescribable – it is a noted loss when he is not on the field, and it becomes quite evident when he is not out there. Both Taylor and White had those same impacts on their respective defensive units, but this ability doesn’t come easy.
An astounding stat that demonstrates just how impact Donald is – he was double-teamed 64 percent of snaps during the 2021-22 NFL season and he still led the league in besting double-team attempts (23.1 percent). Even when teams actively game-planned for him and tried to send extra help over, he is so good at what he does that those types of tactics did not even phase him.
If you are a non-QB and earning a regular spot on your opponent’s game sheet, then you obviously are doing something right. Whenever teams decide to leave Donald 1:1, now that right there is more of a surprise than anything, and naturally, he takes advantage of those matchups too (34.2 win percentage).
2. His ‘Specialty Move’ Is Deadly Efficient
White had the storied ‘Hump Move’ that allowed him to throw opposing blockers halfway across the field, and while Taylor was heavily reliant on his skills utilized in an outside rush, Donald has something of his own too – the chop club.
By utilizing verticality and keeping the opposing lineman guessing, Donald is able to get off the ground, leverage himself into a power position that offsets his opponent, and ultimately pushed through the block and continue on his way to finding the QB. Having that go-to arsenal in your bag only makes you that much more dangerous, and Donald, who has enough talent in his bull-rush and power-rush reps, becomes even tougher to stop with this at his disposal.
1. Sustained Talent Keeps The Lights On
Reggie White – 124 || Lawrence Taylor – 98.5 || Aaron Donald – 98
Those numbers above are from the first eight seasons of all three players – while White enjoyed immediate Hall of Fame stats out of the gate, both Taylor and Donald experienced semi-slower starts to their careers.
While none of these three players currently hold the league’s top historical honor for sacks in a season (22.5 – Michael Strahan & T.J. Watt), it remains that Donald certainly belongs in this group, just based on this grouping alone.
Both Taylor and White played during a different style of football, where shotgun formations were more infrequent than coming across an albino deer in the wild. But they still were able to get theirs, cementing themselves forever as some of the best pass rushers to ever do it.
But Donald has been a member of the pass-heavy league outlook, where teams seem to prefer throwing the ball and being gimmicky with their offense, which has provided Donald with far more chances than the other legends have been.
However you prefer to slice the conversation, there are no logical takeaways that demonstrate why Donald is not a member of this prestigious group. Finding a fourth player to finish our the pass-rush Mount Rushmore of sorts is tough as well, but at least these three options are known.