When the Green Bay Packers take the field on Sunday, they will do so against a Los Angeles Rams defense that ranks 10th overall in DVOA. However, that ranking was recently boosted by a big game against a bad offense — the San Francisco 49ers — as the team ranked 17th just a week prior.
In other words, we’re not entirely sure just yet what that defense is. But one thing is certain: it has the most disruptive interior pass-rusher in all of football. Aaron Donald is a beast, who beat the 49ers offensive line up and down the field last Sunday. His eight sacks are tied for the league lead across all positions, and he has taken to his role as a 3-technique rusher in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense with alacrity, winning Defensive Player of the Year honors last season.
So what do you do about Donald? One answer is to keep the game close and run the football. The Rams rank just 24th in rushing DVOA, but they have the second-fewest rushing attempts against on defense in the league. That means that although teams are successful running the football, they can’t do it often because they’re down big early on.
If the Packers’ run game can get going early, they have a good chance of keeping up with Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and the rest of the Rams’ offense. If not, Donald will be harassing Aaron Rodgers all day long.
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Part of the Packers' struggles have been due to slow starts on both sides of the ball getting the team in a hole. Part of it is the team's struggles on first downs. And all of that leads to third-and-longs, which are no good at all.
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Note to the Packers' offensive line: BLOCK AARON DONALD ... if you can. His four sacks on Sunday against the 49ers demonstrate how he can take over a game if you have to throw the football too much.
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The Packers and Rams last played each other in 2015, Donald’s second season, and Green Bay was able to keep him off Rodgers as he had no sacks and just three tackles. He’s a different player in a different scheme now, though, and all eight of his sacks have come over the last four games.
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Here's a quick fantasy trade guide for this week. Johnson has been an inconsistent mess in fantasy this year, thanks in large part to former OC Mike McCoy. But with McCoy gone and Byron Leftwich now calling plays, that could change over the remainder of the year.
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