Tue, 20 Oct 2020

'He's a monster. Everyone knows it': Eagles prep for Aaron Donald

Philadelphia Eagles
17 Sep 2020, 19:12 GMT+10

Vaughn Johnson

The Eagles' offense struggled against a Washington defensive line that attacked them in waves in Week 1.

The Washington Football team sent one first-round pick after another after quarterback Carson Wentz and the result was eight sacks.

In Week 2, they will face a man who does not need much help in wrecking an offense's game plan. That man is Aaron Donald.

On paper, Donald's resume is nothing short of incredible. He has been voted to the Pro Bowl every season of his six-year NFL career. He is a five-time All-Pro selection, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and is a safe bet to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.

He has accomplished all of this before his 30th birthday.

"He's a monster," quarterback Carson Wentz said of Donald on Wednesday. "Everyone knows it. Everyone around the league knows the type of player he is and how he can really disrupt an offensive game plan. We're aware of that."

"I used to see him tackle the quarterback and the running back at the same time," said cornerback and fellow Pitt Panther Avonte Maddox while watching Donald's college film. "I used to be like, 'How the heck did he do that?'"

Donald's monstrous reputation precedes him, but turn on the film and his play backs it all up. A national television audience got to witness Donald do his best Phillip Banks impersonation in Week 1, as he tossed around Dallas Cowboys offensive linemen as if there were all DJ Jazzy Jeff. Watch any other game of his against any other team and you're more than likely going to see the same thing.

According to cornerback and former Rams teammate Nickell Robey-Coleman, Donald is also a tireless worker on a seemingly endless pursuit of excellence, as if he hasn't reached that plateau already.

"He's not taking no days off at work," Robey-Coleman said. "He's not waiting until Friday to stretch his legs. No, he's going from Monday to Sunday. He's working. He's preparing for the game. That's how he goes about his business."

"He's so talented, but he's got a relentless approach to every single day," Rams Head Coach Sean McVay said Wednesday. "He never lets complacency set in."

Fortunately for the Eagles, all signs are pointing to Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson returning to the lineup this week after he was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. However, it will take a village to stop Donald. All hands are on deck. That includes running backs in pass protection and defensive players who can provide intel on how to slow him down - if that's even possible.

"There are not many offensive lines out there that really kind of slow this guy down," Head Coach Doug Pederson told reporters Wednesday. "I mean, he just goes from snap to whistle. He's a 100 miles an hour and that's tough."

Granted, this is not the first time the Eagles have seen Donald. They have firsthand experience of what he is capable of doing. To their credit, though, they are one of the few teams not to have their game plans wrecked by No. 99.

Between both of the Eagles-Rams matchups in 2017-18, Donald had four quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, and zero sacks. He was completely shut out from getting to the quarterback or corralling someone in the backfield in 2018.

But that was when the Rams' defense under the stewardship of Son of Bum, Wade Phillips, who did not move Donald around a lot on the line of scrimmage. In 2020, the Rams' defense is led Brandon Staley (no relation to Duce), who does move Donald around, creating another layer of preparation for the Eagles.

However, that preparation could work against offensive linemen, according to defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who said Donald's best trait is that he can get inside players' heads before they even step onto the field.

"They're so shook before they even play him," Jackson said. "They're like, 'Oh my god! I have to stop this! I have to stop that!' so then they start thinking about a bunch of things and he goes and just does what he's best at."

As a talented defensive tackle himself, Jackson told reporters Wednesday that he is doing his part in providing a good look for the Eagles' interior linemen in practice this week. The same goes for Robey-Coleman, who spent three seasons playing alongside Donald in Los Angeles.

Robey-Coleman has specifically taken running back Miles Sanders under his wing, as the second-year pro will more than likely be tasked with providing help out of the backfield.

"Just be ready," Robey-Coleman recalled telling Sanders. "He's coming to play. His mind is right. He's a real man."

Like Johnson, Sanders was also a full participant in Wednesday's practice and looks to be on track to make his 2020 debut Sunday. His most important job Sunday will probably be in pass protection, something the Eagles missed in Week 1. According to Pederson, Sanders is ready for the challenge.

"Miles really improved all of last season, so, he's got to get back in there," Pederson said. "He's definitely missed obviously some practice time, so it's going to take a little bit for him to get his eyes back, seeing what he needs to see, listening to the protection calls from (Jason) Kelce or Carson (Wentz), and go from there. But having his ability to pass protect obviously helps the whole unit."

Donald will get a lot of attention from the Eagles' coaches during the planning process for Sunday's game, and rightfully so. But Pederson made sure to note Wednesday that there are 10 other players on the Rams' defense they have to prepare for, too, including All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

"Well, obviously, it's hard to just specifically gameplan one guy because there's 10 other guys that fit within the defense and fit within the structure of what they are doing," Pederson said. "It's more about awareness of where he lines up and is he to the tight end side, is he to the open side, is he playing a tackle, is he playing an end. It's just part of their scheme."

"It's not about necessarily gameplanning a specific player as much as it is the whole entire scheme, but within that, as I mentioned earlier, we have to be aware of where a player like Aaron Donald lines up," he added.

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