ESPN Insider Unveils History-Making Prediction for Rams’ DPOY Winner

Aaron Donald

Getty Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams snatches Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals for the sack during a December 2020 regular season game.

Matthew Stafford and offensive players across the league aren’t the only ones who could put up astronomical numbers in this upcoming 17-game season.

One bold prediction from Lindsey Thiry of ESPN released on Tuesday, September 7, points to two accolades that could occur for Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams.

Big Predictions for 2020 Defensive Player of the Year

There have been countless articles written on how quarterbacks will benefit greatly from having 17 games, leading to an assault on the record books for yardage and touchdowns — all pointing to the 2021 Most Valuable Player winner at season’s end to once again be a quarterback.

But the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Donald is one defender who could take advantage of the extra game this season to become MVP in Thiry’s bold prediction and break a record that’s stood for 20 years. Here’s what the Rams beat reporter wrote:

DT Aaron Donald becomes the third defensive player to win MVP if … he breaks Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record of 22.5, the Rams’ defense ranks among the best in the NFL and the Rams make a dominant run to Super Bowl LVI. Yes, Donald and the Rams must achieve all of that for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to win MVP.

Donald Would Make History if It All Happens

Since 2013, a quarterback has claimed the league’s top individual honor every year.

And since 1957, there have only been two defensive players to win the league MVP award at season’s end. One was Lawrence Taylor back in 1986. Alan Page of the Minnesota Vikings in 1971 was the last defensive tackle to win MVP. And Page won during a time the sack wasn’t considered an official NFL stat.

Donald put up MVP numbers in 2018 with 20.5 sacks, the most ever by an interior defensive lineman. But Patrick Mahomes won the award after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns.

Now, Donald’s pass rushing prowess and consistency over the years points to him pursuing Strahan’s record.

Aaron Donald could be the best interior pass-rusher the NFL has ever seen | Kurt Warner Film StudyIn this episode of StudyBall we’ve got a little bonus Rams coverage. We can't take a look at the Rams D without talking about number 99, arguably the best football player in the National Football League, Aaron Donald. We’ll cover not just Aaron Donald, but what the Rams try to do defensively to get him…2021-05-21T13:09:59Z

How Can ‘A.D.’ Get to Sack Record and MVP?

Minus placing the Rams atop the final NFC standings come late January, here’s how the 30-year-old Donald can reach 23 sacks to shatter Strahan’s record:

  • He has to average at least two sacks each game.
  • In the year Strahan broke the record, the New York Giants Hall of Famer produced three games of three to four sacks, plus two games of netting two sacks. Donald would need to have at least four games of surpassing the three-sack mark.
  • Strahan had three sackless games that 2001 season. Donald would have to avoid matching that number.

What kind of pass protection is Donald walking into? According to, Donald and the Rams defense will be going against two offensive line units that surrendered 50 sacks a year ago in the Giants (October 17) and the Houston Texans (October 31). They also have two games against a Seattle Seahawks trench unit that gave up 48 sacks in 2020.

However, the September slate could prove to be challenging for Donald and the Rams. The Chicago Bears surrendered 36 sacks last year. After the Sunday Night Football opener versus Chicago, the Rams’ next two opponents the Indianapolis Colts and defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers surrendered just 21 and 22 sacks, respectively.

October, though, looks more promising for A.D. Outside of the Arizona Cardinals (29 sacks surrendered), Donald and the Rams once again get the Giants, Texans, ‘Hawks and a Detroit Lions team that allowed 42 QB sacks and has Donald’s ex-Ram teammate Jared Goff.

As a whole, every opponent the three-time Defensive Player of the Year and the Rams will get this fall gave up an average of 31 sacks in 2020. Expectations are high for both the defensive lineman and his team, but having a non-16 game slate could lead to a career-year — let alone a history-making year — for A.D.

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