Aaron Donald strives to be mentioned among the NFL’s all-time greats.
Just in his third season with the Rams, he arguably is the best defensive tackle in football.
But he’s played in only 33 NFL games. That does not approach what the “Warren Sapps and the John Randles” accomplished in their careers, the soft-spoken Pittsburgh native noted.
“I’ve got a long ways to go,” Donald said. “One day I will put forth a body of work and ... hopefully be in that conversation.”
If he gets to keep lining up against the Seattle Seahawks twice a season, he could be on his way.
No defensive player in the NFC West has been more of a disruptive force against Seattle in the past two seasons than Donald, the Rams’ first-rounder and NFL rookie of the year in 2014.
It started in his first meeting with the Seahawks that year: one sack and four solo tackles.
And in the 2015 season opener, Donald had one of his finest showings to date. He sacked Russell Wilson twice, had five solo tackles, and was the one defender primarily responsible for stopping beastly Marshawn Lynch on fourth-and-1 in overtime in the Rams’ victory.
“Like I’ve said, he’s a really good player,” Seattle center Justin Britt said. “He is a student of the game, and he understands what he’s best at, and he understands what position not to put himself in.”
This will be another test for the interior of the Seahawks’ offensive line. Last week, it was the taller and stronger Ndamukong Suh who came to town with the Miami Dolphins. On Sunday in Los Angeles, it will be the 6-foot-1, 285-pound Donald, whose explosiveness from the defensive tackle position is unmatched around the NFL.
Although he probably didn’t need it, Donald faces the Seahawks with a little extra motivation.
His current four-game stretch of not registering a sack or forcing a turnover is the longest of his young career.
He showed an uncharacteristic side to him last Monday in the season opener on the road against San Francisco.
With the Rams trailing 21-0 in the fourth quarter, a skirmish broke out. Donald charged up to 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton and flipped the opposing player’s helmet off.
That drew a personal-foul penalty, which ignited Donald further. He bumped a referee and was ejected.
The fireworks did not stop there. Donald took his helmet off in the middle of the field and flung it hard onto the turf before leaving for the locker room.
After the game, Donald regretted the chain of events. He is expected to receive a hefty fine from the NFL, but won’t be suspended.
“He’s not going to have any issues,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We got it straight. He’s in a good place right now.”
“(I’m) just moving on,” Donald said Wednesday during a teleconference with Seattle-area reporters. “It is in the past, and there’s nothing we can change now.”
Donald’s unexpected outburst does not alter his budding reputation with opposing offensive linemen. He likely will start at left defensive tackle, which means he will face off a lot against new Seahawks right guard J’Marcus Webb, who has primarily played at tackle in his career.
“I love the challenge,” Webb said.
So does Donald.
“The (sacks) are going to come,” Donald said. “I’ve got to keep playing and doing my game, and not try and do too much. When it presents itself, I am going to take advantage of it. I ain’t worried about it at all.”