Rams DT Aaron Donald is a dominant player. He leads the league with 25 quarterback pressures in just four games. It’s an impressive number and Donald has shown he can completely wreck an offensive game plan by himself. What’s interesting is when it comes to getting the best play out of Donald the Rams believe that less is more.
Last week against Arizona for example, Donald was playing every other series. After the first defensive series for the Rams, Donald rotated out. He didn’t return until the following series. Donald played more in the second half, but his snap count was surprisingly low.
Fewer snaps however, appeared to allow Donald to provide more impact. He had five tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the game that was recovered by Los Angeles in their 17-13 win. Donald played in a total of 49 snaps.
In fact so far this season the Pro Bowl defensive tackle has played just under 74 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, down almost five percent from last season.
Bills Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito, who is likely to see a lot of Donald Sunday, has a theory.
“His whole game is explosion, so the Rams are trying to keep him fresh,” said Incognito. “He’s not a big guy so he relies on his speed and quickness.”
It’s true Donald is one of the smaller defensive tackles in the league at just 6-1 and 285 pounds. If he played 75-80 snaps per game going against bigger offensive linemen all day he’d be more likely to wear down.
“He’s an undersized guy number one at 285, so not big by defensive line standards,” said Rex Ryan. “He’s energetic and they want to keep that at a high level. They rotate a lot of those guys in there. They have good depth on their D-line. But he’s a guy that clearly jumps out on tape. They want him at a peak energy level so he can do what he does.”
Here’s a look at Donald’s snap count percentages from each of his three NFL seasons.
2016 – 73.7%
2015 – 78.9%
2014 – 67.4%
Just for a sense of contrast, Bills OLB Jerry Hughes has played 98 percent of the snaps this season. Even 33-year old Kyle Williams has played more than 82 percent of the snaps for Buffalo this season.
Tags: Aaron Donald, Bills-Rams, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams
Posted in Inside the Bills