Aaron Donald’s return keeps Rams defense focused
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) The Los Angeles Rams dominated on defense in their season opener, returning two interceptions for touchdowns and allowing 225 yards.
They will have Aaron Donald back in action this week, as head coach Sean McVay announced Friday that the All-Pro defensive lineman will start against Washington on Sunday.
Taken together, those two developments might be cause for celebration. To the Rams, they are being treated as a challenge.
”We want to be a lot better on the plays that we didn’t make,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. ”When you like trying to be number one, you have to look at all the things you didn’t do, also.”
Having Donald in the fold should provide a major boost towards that quest of being the top defense in the NFL. Donald reported to the Rams last week, ending his holdout that saw him miss all of training camp while seeking a new contract. He did not play in the 46-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts, but all indications are that Donald put in the necessary work when he was away from the team.
”I know it’s going to sound crazy. He looks like his same old self, like he hasn’t missed a beat,” outside linebacker Robert Quinn said.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips plans to exercise caution with Donald and will closely monitor his snap count.
”You know, football shape and shape are two different things because you’re carrying a lot more weight with pads on and so forth,” Phillips said. ”But, he doesn’t seem to be bothered too much by the reps we’re giving him in practice. It’s not wearing him out, so we’ll make sure in the ball game that we watch him.”
Donald has recorded at least eight sacks in each of his three seasons since being drafted 13th overall in 2014. It is that consistent disruption that has him pushing for a contract that would make Donald the highest paid defender in league history.
Whenever Donald is in the game, whether it is for five plays or 85, Quinn expects that dominance to continue.
”I’m excited for him to come Sunday, see what he got up in that bag,” Quinn said. ”Of course everyone knows what he brings. He’s going to play a huge part in this game. He’s one of the guys I’m sure the Redskins have put a circle around his name to make sure they stop him. He came back in great shape. I think he’s just ready to get back to playing football.”
Adding Donald’s pass rush skills should benefit a secondary that could be without cornerback Kayvon Webster, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. Webster was limited in practice Friday and is questionable. Nickell Robey-Coleman would get the start if Webster cannot play.
Webster’s injury was one of the few glaring issues from the blowout win over the Colts, but several Rams said its lopsided nature forces them to be even more self-critical when evaluating their performance.
”You don’t want to get bigheaded, especially the first week into the season,” Quinn said. ”McVay and Wade, Coach Wade, they want us to have a higher standard whether you’re a starter or a backup. Everyone’s got to act like they’re that number one guy. It’s just more of guys approaching every play like it’s their last. We don’t want to get complacent.”
And getting Donald back has helped the Rams maintain that hunger.
”A great defense, they have a lot of confidence in what they do, and we’re no exception to that,” Ogletree said. ”Having him back definitely brings another piece of the puzzle, so we’re definitely excited about this week.”