Any defensive line that consists of Aaron Donald is bound to have a good season. There’s no denial of Donald’s dominance. His impact can be attributed to the success of others. However, quite a few linemen stepped up this year.
Aaron Donald: Grade A+
45 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
He’s the Defensive Player of the Year, do I need to say more? Of course I do! In terms of stats, it’s somewhat of a “down year” for Donald, if you can believe that. Let’s put things into perspective though, Donald is an interior lineman, the fact he puts up big numbers each year is remarkable. The next closest interior lineman is seventh on the sacks leader list for 2020 and that’s the New York Giants’ Leonard Williams with 11.5. Doesn’t seem like much less than Donald, but it makes a world of difference.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask some of the opposing coaches about facing Donald in 2020. The Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll suggested that Donald could “miss the bus.” The NFC West coaching sees him twice a year, so when Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll says he’s, “as good as there’s ever been in the game,” he means it. While coaches do tend to praise players that deserve it, you can’t help but notice the hint of dread in their voices when they praise Donald.
Michael Brockers: Grade B+
51 total tackles, five tackles for a loss and five sacks.
There isn’t any doubt about Brockers’s impact to the team. He’s a locker room leader, a selfless player and essentially completes the defensive line. Hard to believe he was almost a Baltimore Raven last season.
The nine-year veteran recorded the most sacks since 2013, back when he was in the second year of his career. Now, his numbers may not seem all that impressive, but his role consists of clogging up the offensive line to let his fellow defenders make an opportunity to go after the QBs or RBs. We give a ton of credit to Donald, and rightfully so, but Brockers also makes the team around him better too.
Sebastian Joseph-Day: Grade B+
55 total tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack and three pass deflections.
Joseph-Day stepped up in a major way in 2019. This was huge considering the Rams moved on from Ndamukong Suh the year prior. While Joseph-Day did decent in 2019, he was still a relative unknown for the 2020 season. His improvement was definitely noticeable. He may not have always made the play, but he was a constant presence in the backfield. If he continues to develop, the Rams may not have even seen his breakout season yet. Good thing he’s still under contract for 2021.
The most impressive thing of all is that he split time with A’Shawn Robinson later in the season. Speaking of which, I didn’t forget Robinson at all. It’s really not fair to grade Robinson on an incomplete season. He really didn’t play until Week 10 and of course it took some time to get in a rhythm.
Morgan Fox: Grade A+
27 total tackles, eight tackles for a loss, six sacks, two pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
No, Fox isn’t on Donald’s level at all. But, he may be the most underrated addition to the team in 2020. That’s impressive considering we weren’t even sure if he was going to make the roster. Well, not only did he make the roster, but he made some amazing plays. Fox made the most of every opportunity he was presented with and his success is to the point where the Rams may not be able to retain him because his price tag may have rose for the 2021 season. If you predicted Fox to have the success he did in 2020, grab yourself a lottery ticket, because no else did.