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Russell Wilson: Aaron Donald is 'best defensive player'

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With the NFC West hanging in the balance, Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks are prepping for battle against a familiar foe.

Over the past three years, a lot has changed about the division-rival Rams; they've changed coaches, quarterbacks, color schemes and residences. But one thing that hasn't changed, one that remains stuck in Seattle's craw is Los Angeles' most unstoppable lineman, and perhaps, as Wilson sees it, the league's best defender.

"When I think about Aaron Donald, he's probably in my opinion, the best defensive player I've ever played against in terms of actually playing in a game against," Wilson told reporters Thursday, per The Seattle Times. "That's a pretty big statement; I've played against some really good guys. I think back to my rookie year and my second year when I played against guys like [Navarro] Bowman and [Patrick] Willis and all of those guys are in my head, the top guys I've ever played.

"I think about a guy like Aaron Donald, he's definitely there too as well, so I have tremendous respect for how he plays the game. He's really, really tough, he's really quick, and he's pretty special. You look forward to those matchups just because those are things that you'll remember and those are the things that you'll tell your kids one day 'I played against this guy,' and those are fun things. He's definitely one of those guys that will probably be a Hall of Famer no doubt."

That's high praise.

Wilson has seen a lot of the former Defensive Rookie of the Year over the past four years. In their first three meetings in 2014 and 2015, Donald sacked Wilson four times. Since then, the Rams defensive tackle hasn't been as lucky, registering zero QB takedowns.

Wilson has had a rough go of it against the Rams over his career. In 11 career games against the transplant franchise, Wilson has more losses (5) and has taken more sacks (42) and QB hits (89) than against any other NFL team. Donald's disruptive presence in the interior of L.A.'s defensive line contributes to that.

Wilson is catching Donald and the Rams at a bad time, too. Donald leads all interior defensive linemen with a 14.3 percent pressure rate, per Next Gen Stats. Plus, the defensive tackle is coming off only his second sack-less game in his last eight contests.

The Defensive Player of the Year candidate has the opportunity on Sunday to provide evidence in support of his opponent's claim. With all the media attention fixed on how Seattle's once-impenetrable defense will hold up against L.A.'s juggernaut offense, Donald's ability to frustrate a freelancing Wilson in Seattle might go longer toward securing the Rams an ever-elusive NFC West title.

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