GREEN BAY – The Packers might not face a better defensive front this season than the one they’ll encounter this Sunday. Led by last year’s defensive rookie of the year, Aaron Donald, the St. Louis Rams’ 17 sacks are No. 2 in the league.
“We haven’t played our best football yet. If we continue to grow, we could do some special things; something that’s never been done before in this league. We try to dominate every week,” Donald told Packers media on Wednesday.
The defensive tackle leads the Rams with 3.5 sacks. Defensive end Robert Quinn has three and eight other Rams defenders have a half-sack or more.
“It’s personnel,” Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said when asked what makes the Rams’ pass rush what it is. “Rob is really good on the edge and Aaron’s come on. Aaron is really talented inside. We try to keep them fresh. We have a nice little wave going. We have some depth.”
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be the target of the Rams’ rush. Rodgers has been sacked only six times this season, but Donald had a mind-boggling eight quarterback pressures last Sunday in Arizona.
“It’s going to be tough. They have a good offensive line that plays great together. It’s going to be tough because he gets that ball out pretty fast. We have to play smart. He can read defenses and take things away from us,” Donald said of Rodgers.
“Don’t let him get too comfortable back there. If he gets comfortable, it’ll be a long day,” he added of Rodgers.
Donald won the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik trophies in his senior year at Pitt. He dominated at the Senior Bowl and put on an eye-popping display at the scouting combine. It caused the Rams to overlook Donald’s smallish size and select the defensive tackle with the 13th overall pick. Since then, he has become the centerpiece of what appears to be the best young defensive line in the league.
“Aaron is a pro. He’s humble. He’s a team guy. In addition to that, he’s a talented guy. He has great lower body strength and quickness. His hands are outstanding. Once we got him here, we agreed not to coach him, just let him go. He’s one of those guys who sees things, he recognizes things, and when we cut him loose, he’s hard to block,” Fisher said.
It was the emergence of first-round pick Todd Gurley in the Rams’ win in Arizona last Sunday that gives the Rams the same kind of young cornerstone on offense the Rams have in Donald on defense.
“We drafted him to be the back of our future,” Fisher said of Gurley, who underwent knee reconstruction late last fall. “We were very patient with him. He worked really hard coming off that injury. We felt it was a matter of time before he would hit some runs. He’s not a hundred percent yet. I think we all realize it takes a full year.”
Gurley ran 19 times for 146 yards against the Cardinals. He was the difference maker in that game.
“We didn’t play particularly well in the first half. At halftime we had nine carries for nine yards. We ended up with 26 for 164, so that was the difference in the ballgame. We were able to get the run game going in the second half,” Fisher said.
Gurley and Donald give the Rams a bright future. The Packers will get a look at that future this Sunday at Lambeau Field.
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