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How Does Aaron Donald Fit in Phillips' 3-4 Defense?

Posted Feb 14, 2017

New Rams DC Wade Phillips said he's going to work to put DT Aaron Donald in as many one-on-one situations as possible.

Since the Rams hired Wade Phillips to be their defensive coordinator in January, one question has consistently come up: How does defensive tackle Aaron Donald fit into Phillips’ 3-4 scheme?

Since entering the league in 2014, Donald has quickly emerged as one of the best three-technique defensive tackles in the game. But Donald’s 28.0 sacks have come in a 4-3 front, which will no longer be the case in 2017.

New head coach Sean McVay gave his assurances following his introductory press conference that Donald will continue to play at three technique. And on Friday, Phillips gave his own answer to the looming question.

“If he can’t fit in, you’re doing the wrong thing,” Phillips said of Donald. “He can probably fit into any defense.

“We’re going to try to utilize our best players’ abilities,” Phillips continued. “We’re going to try to get him one-on-one as much as we can — no matter what he’s playing. No matter where he’s lining up, we’re going to try to get him one-on-one because he can beat people one-on-one. So that’s what we have to do as far as our scheme’s concerned, is utilize a guy like him — put him in position to make the plays he can make.”

While Phillips hasn’t coached Donald on the field yet, he’s well aware of the qualities that make the 2014 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year special.

“Besides being strong, fast, quick, athletic, determined? Yeah, he’s got it all,” Phillips said. “He’s a phenomenal player.”

Having gotten his start in the league in 1976, Phillips has coached his share of star players. Asked if Donald compares to any of them, Phillips replied, “No, but he’s the premiere defensive lineman in the league right now.

“I coached one named Reggie White, who was at one time. And Bruce Smith at one time. And I think J.J. Watt was in his time,” Phillips said. “So I’m lucky to be with another one who has that caliber of talent. So I’m looking forward to working with him. But, like I said, we’re going to get it where he can play one-on-one as much as possible — especially in passing situations. Or even running situations, where we can utilize him. And we can do that.”