Making a case for the Rams as an NFC West contender
Coming off back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl, many experts once again penciled in the Seahawks as the 2015 NFC West Champions prior to the season.
Let’s pump the brakes on that assumption — if DT Aaron Donald and the rest of the Rams’ defense plays as well as they did Week 1, St. Louis could capture its first division title since 2003.
A first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft out of Pitt, Donald wasted no time establishing himself as one of the premier interior defensive lineman in football. As a rookie, Donald graded out as PFF’s highest-rated defensive tackle, even above the likes of perennial greats Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Donald ranked fifth at his respective position in both pass-rushing and run defense, a testament to how versatile of a player he truly is.
Aside from Broncos OLB DeMarcus Ware, Donald earned the highest grade of any defensive player for Week 1 (yes, even above Texans DE J.J. Watt at 9.3). He recorded two sacks, seven tackles, and seven stops — all most among interior defensive lineman.
In all, the Rams had 12 defensive players grade out positive in our PFF ranking system, with the top six all being defensive lineman. It is no surprise that Russell Wilson (+0.1 overall) had a very long and largely ineffective afternoon on Sunday.
While it’s only one week, the talent the Rams have built on their defense cannot be overlooked. Donald is already a legitimate contender for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and the Rams’ defense makes them a serious threat to win the NFC West.