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Rams shouldn't be concerned about Aaron Donald's slow start

The two-time Pro Bowler may be off to a sluggish start statistically in 2016, but that shouldn't warrant any concern.

Through his first two seasons in the NFL, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has established himself as one of the premier players on the defensive side of the ball. 

Donald has demonstrated pure dominance at times while playing in the interior of the defensive line racking up 20.0 sacks, which leads all defensive tackles during that span. Along the way, he earned a pair of Pro Bowl selections, a First Team All-Pro nod (2015), and won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2014). More importantly, he has garnered the respect from his peers as being regarded as arguably the next best defensive player behind Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt

However, through the first six weeks of the 2016 season, he has tallied just 3.0 sacks currently ranking him tied for 30th in the league. This has in many ways twisted the public perception that Donald has not been nearly as effective as he was in first two seasons. 

The numbers may be slightly down in that regard, but the 25-year-old has continued to be a game-changing force. Donald is currently tied for the league-lead with 13 hits on the quarterback while creating 18 quarterback hurries. He has also recorded at least half of a sack in each of the last three games, including four hits on the quarterback, 2 1/2 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks against the Arizona Cardinals.

In light of that, Pro Football Focus still has Donald with the highest overall grade (94.8) among all defensive players in the league. This includes a 96.4 grade against the pass, which ranks about 10 points higher than reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller (85.7), who is currently second in the NFL with 7.5 sacks.

Above all else, Los Angeles should be most encouraged by Donald's versatility playing at each position along the defensive line this season with each of the other starters in Michael Brockers, William Hayes , and Robert Quinn all missing time. It has put an increased workload on his shoulders to be a disruptive force, and he has responded to the challenge. This was most evident in the Rams 37-32 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when injuries along the front four resulted in him playing 78 total plays with 58 of them being against the pass. 

With Brockers currently dealing with an aggravated hip injury and Quinn still experiencing issues with his shoulder that have forced him to miss the last two games, it will once again be incumbent upon Donald to continue to take up a larger responsibility. He will not only need to provide production but also mask the deficiencies along the defensive line while Quinn and Brockers are on the mend. 

As the season wears on, Donald will have plenty of opportunities to round out his production to what many have grown accustomed to seeing from him. Ultimately, the Rams shouldn't hold any concerns regarding their star defensive tackle as things will eventually shape into form. 


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