Rams DL Aaron Donald will be the best player on the field on Sunday when the Jets play the Rams at SoFi Stadium. Donald is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and five-time first-team All-Pro.
"If he's not the best player in the league, he's in the top three," Head Coach Adam Gase said. "He's so disruptive. You watch the San Francisco game alone, there's two plays back to back where it just shows you how damaging this guy can be to the game. Forced fumble, they score a touchdown off it. The next play they're back on the field, he sacks the quarterback for 12 yards. It's just like this guy wrecks the game in so many different ways, whether it's the run game, pass game, creating turnovers, just constant pressure on the quarterback to where you can feel him so much the ball starts coming out quicker."
Gase has been coaching in the NFL since 2005 and said that there are few players he's come across who can disrupt the game like Donald, who leads the NFL with 12.5 sacks. Gase mentioned Bears DE Khalil Mack and Buccaneers DT Ndamukong Suh, who have a combined 10 Pro Bowl and six first-team All-Pro selections.
"You have to have a plan of how do you handle this guy, how do we make sure we protect the quarterback, how do we stay positive with the plays," Gase said. "I mean it's a constant, problematic issue you're solving throughout the game. And then they're tight on coverage. The way their front plays, not only with him, but the rest of the guys, it allows the DBs to be really aggressive to where they don't have to back up."
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains added: "They do a very good job of moving him around. It creates a unique challenge because you can't zero in on him to lock him into one spot. Every offensive lineman is going to have to block him one-on-one at some point and they do a good enough job in the scheme to make sure you can't dial in to where he's at."
Donald, who almost always sees a double team, has the NFL's pass rush win for a defensive tackle (23%). In addition to blocking him with multiple players, 16th-year RB Frank Gore said offenses have to slow down Donald by making him think.
"You have to switch it up," Gore said. "I think you have to have a good offensive scheme. You have to run at him, you have to do boots, get him to start thinking to slow him down."
He added: "Aaron Donald is a beast. He's probably the best defensive player in the NFL right now. I've been competing with him since I was in San Fran. He's always been a great player. He plays this game the right way."
QB Sam Darnold is hoping he won't see a lot of Donald on Sunday when the Jets play in Darnold's home state, but he's looking forward to the challenge.
"He definitely pops out on tape, especially when a play needs to be made, he's always there making it," he said. "It'll be fun playing against him."