Aaron Donald joins Taylor, Watt as only back-to-back Defensive Players of the Year

For the second consecutive year, Aaron Donald is The AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

In a two-man race that wasn’t much of a contest, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle earned 45 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league. The only unanimous member of the 2018 All-Pro team, Donald easily outdistanced Chicago edge rusher Khalil Mack, also an All-Pro, who received five votes.

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Donald, the only Rams player selected for the top defensive honor, joins Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as players to win the award in back-to-back seasons. Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks. 25 tackles for loss, and 41 quarterback hits. His 20.5 sacks set a new single-season record for an interior lineman and a new single-season franchise record.

“Any time you put a body of work into it and then it pays off,” Donald said earlier in the week, “and you’re rewarded for it, it means a lot. It’s a blessing.”

The defensive tackle also set a new league record with 183.5 sacks yards on his quarterback takedowns.

Donald and the rest of the Rams will take on the New England Patriots for the Lombardi Trophy Sunday at 3:30.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)