There might not be a more dominant interior defensive lineman in NFL history that Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
The Rams’ superstar has racked up several accolades over his eight-year career, including three Defensive Player of the Years and seven first-team All-Pro honors. Donald’s also put up several eye-popping stats, such as his 20.5 sack season in 2018.
As Donald dominates, not only does he face double teams on most snaps, but he’s also faced triple and even quadruple teams of blockers.
In an interview with the “I Am Athlete” podcast, Donald shared how he breaks down film to help beat the constant pressure he faces from opposing offensive lines.
Donald Studies Opposing Offensive Lines in Numerous Ways
Donald explained to the “I Am Athlete” podcast hosts that he likes to watch film alone at first, seeing what tendencies players on the opposing offensive line have before consulting with Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson on what to do.
“The main reason I like to go to the facility at night…I like to break film down by myself because sometimes I might watch a play – damn near be stuck on a play for five minutes just studying somebody,” Donald said. “What I do is study tendencies, I study who I’m going against. I study the guard – each guard – and then I’m going to study the center and just watch them play. I’m just going to study what they do, what they’re losing with, what they’re winning with, and see what little tendencies they’re going to give – if it’s a certain pass or a certain thing they’re going to do – to help me play faster.
“Then I start breaking down the whole [offensive line] as a whole. So, I’m going to see how this tackle – is he going to choke down a lot? Meaning, before the tackle blocks out to the end he is going to punch down on me to close up that B gap. Then you’ve got that center sliding to you that’s going to close up that A gap. So, you’ve got to work power to work off that, because there ain’t no cross-chopping because he’s punching you. There ain’t no inside move because you have that center running right over to you right now trying to hit you in your head. So, now you’ve got to figure out if you’ve got to work the game or start working power.
“So, just breaking tendencies down and watching it to the point where they block me like this so I get an idea of how good this group really is as a whole. Sometimes you watch film, even if it’s an offensive line that’s all banged up and hurt you know they’re going through a lot of backups, I’ll be like ‘I know if I get a 1-on-1, I’m going to win. But I don’t get many of those opportunities, so I’ve got to find different ways.’ That’s the main reason why I like to go to my [defensive line] coach and watch with him because it’s like ‘This is the game that I think is going to work. If we do this certain game at this certain look’ and he ping-pongs ideas off that, we’re able to help each other find ways to free me up. It’s a process, man.”
The Athletic’s Nate Tice, who was a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh during Donald’s senior season, attested to the three-time Defensive Player of the Year’s film study habits.
“I was inputting the game info as a GA at Pitt after we lost a night game to FSU in 2013. Walking the halls to leave the facility. And there was [Donald] watching the game back already in the DL meeting room. It was like 2 in the morning and there he was,” Tice wrote in a tweet.
The Latest on Donald’s Contract Situation
In the same podcast, Donald shared that he would be “at peace” with potentially retiring from football if he and the Rams don’t reach an agreement on a contract extension.
“I was blessed to play this game, to make the money I made, the accomplishments I made in eight years is, like, I’m complete. If I can win another one, that’s great. But if not, I’m at peace,” Donald said.
Donald believes that both sides will “probably” work out a deal as he has a desire to win another Super Bowl.
“It ain’t about the money, it’s a business at the end of the day,” Donald said. “That’s what you’ve got to see. For me, it’s about winning. I don’t want to play football if I can’t win anyway, so I feel like…if I got a real opportunity to win another Super Bowl, then it makes sense to play. But again, it’s still a business. We’ve got to handle the business side of things, and if that wasn’t to get handled then, you know, it is what it is type of situation. I’ll be fine regardless.”