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Every week, Rams' Aaron Donald plays like defensive player of year. Can he win again?

By Gary Klein, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Football

LOS ANGELES — The grin that spread across Aaron Donald's face belied his answer.

Asked Thursday if one of his goals was to join the small club of three-time winners of the NFL defensive-player-of-the-year award, Donald chuckled.

"I'm just going week to week," Donald, a two-time winner, said during a videoconference with reporters, "and I'm just going to play ball and try to win games."

Only two players have been voted defensive player of the years three times. Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor won in 1981, 1982 and 1986 and Houston Texans lineman J.J. Watt in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

In 2018, Donald joined them as the only players to win the award in consecutive seasons. Retired linemen Joe Greene, Bruce Smith and Reggie White, and linebackers Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis won the award twice but not two years in a row.

As this season approaches its midpoint, Donald is making his case to reclaim the honor he received in 2017 and 2018.

 

Donald recorded a half-sack in last Monday's 24-10 victory over the Chicago Bears, increasing his season sack total to eight. The seventh-year pro has 80 sacks heading into Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins and rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who will be making his first pro start.

"He definitely did some real good things in college," Donald said of the former Alabama star, "so it's expected for him to be able to translate that to the National Football League, but hopefully not this week."

After missing the playoffs last season, the Rams are 5-2 and aiming to return to the Super Bowl. A 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII still motivates Donald, a six-time Pro Bowl selection.

"The only thing I didn't accomplish I feel like, is a Super Bowl, so that's my only thing, is trying to do everything I can to help this team to win and get back to the Super Bowl and this time win it," he said.

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