Payton: Aaron Donald is NFL's 'best defensive player'

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METAIRIE, La. -- From Aaron Donald to Khalil Mack to J.J. Watt to Von Miller, among others, the NFL has its share of elite, game-changing defensive players.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton gets to face Donald again in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, and there's little doubt in Payton's mind who is the best.

"It's hard to say you're going to keep him in check," Payton said Wednesday of the Rams' defensive lineman. "He's played as well at that three-technique position that we've seen in years.

"I mean, arguably and I don't know even if it's an argument, he's the best defensive player today in football. His numbers, his production, it shows up in the run game, it shows up in the passing game and it's a challenge."

Saints left tackle Terron Armstead agreed emphatically with his head coach.

"It's hard to argue with what's he's been able to do these past few years," Armstead said. "You can just watch the tape. Some guys get a name and you go back and watch the tape, and they have had success in certain situations. But him, week after week, play after play, the tape don't lie. The film don't lie. He's a guy that can let his film speak for itself."

New Orleans kept Donald from recording a sack in a Week 9 matchup, which the Saints won 45-35 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. But the four-time All-Pro defensive lineman made his presence felt with four quarterback hits on Drew Brees.

Donald, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, finished the 2018 regular season with a league-high 20.5 sacks en route to being the only unanimous choice to garner first-team All-Pro honors.

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