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Aaron Donald named 2018 Defensive Player of Year


Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was named 2018 NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner for the second straight season Saturday night at NFL Honors.

Donald became just the third player to repeat as AP DPOY, joining J.J. Watt (2014-2015) and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor (1981-1982). Donald performed the feat by lapping the field.

A man redefining the defensive tackle position, Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season, the most by an interior defensive lineman in a single season in NFL history. The 20.5 QB takedowns tied for the fourth-most in a single season over the last 25 seasons among any position.

It wasn't just QB demolitions where Donald dominated, he also ranked first in QB hits (41), tackles for loss (25) and pressures (73, per Next Gen Stats). Donald joined Watt as the only players in the last decade with 20-plus sacks and 40-plus QB hits in a single season (Watt did it in 2012 and 2014).

Standing at 6-foot-1, 280 pounds, Donald doesn't look like your prototypical defensive tackle of yesteryear, who were beefy man generally sporting wide guts. Donald, instead, is a shredded beast with washboard abs and a bulging muscular fortitude to move bodies. The defensive lineman owns the leverage to forklift offensive linemen into the quarterback's lap, strength to battle through multiple bodies, and hand technique to keep blockers at bay. The biggest asset in his repertoire is a lightning-quick first step. Often Donald blows by blockers before the offense can even set up a double team to slow him down.

Donald is always the focal point of an offense's anxiety when playing the Rams.

"When we played the Rams, every single snap it was, "What are we doing with 99?" Chargers QB Philip Riverstold the L.A. Times' Sam Farmer this week. "Whether it's a run or a pass, it didn't matter. It was, "How are we blocking 99? How are we getting a running back through there to bump him? How can we turn the center to him to get him blocked?" Because it doesn't matter what you draw up if you can't get the ball off."

Donald's otherworldly first step can singlehandedly destroy an offense on any play.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick heaped praise on Donald calling the defensive tackle "pretty much unblockable."

Donald joined Taylor as the only players in NFL history to record 20-plus sacks and make a Super Bowl appearance in the same season.

Now Donald is looking to add more hardware to his growing collection on Sunday by beating Belichick and taking home a Lombardi Trophy.

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