Before he became the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Freddie Kitchens was a member of the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff scouting the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
It was there that he witnessed future Rams DT Aaron Donald's potential first-hand.
"I saw Aaron Donald in Mobile defeat the center on one on ones," Kitchens said this week. "He beat the center, he moved out the 3-technique and he beat the guard and then moved to and beat the tackle."
Five years later, Donald is still the same versatile player that can stress opposing offensive lines. On Sunday, he will be priority No. 1 for the Browns' offensive line.
"He has been a good player for a long time, and he continues to get better," Kitchens said. "We have our work cut out for us there.”
The Los Angeles Rams practice ahead of this week's Sunday Night Football matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
Similar to what Kitchens saw in Alabama many years ago, Donald lined up at multiple positions along the defensive line in last week's home opener against the Saints and produced one tackle, one QB hit and three total pressures according to Pro Football Focus.
In the eyes of Browns G Joel Bitonio, Donald is someone who can do it all.
“He is the best player in the league," Bitonio said. "He is strong against the run. He is strong against the pass. He does everything well. People say coming out he was undersized slightly and things like that, but he has all of the power you need to play that position and all of the leverage you need."
Though Donald's production isn't at the level peers and fans are used to seeing, both Rams teammates and opponents recognize how much his presence opens things up for others. According to Bitonio, the current numbers don't tell the whole story.
"I think he only has two tackles this year maybe, but if you watch the film, he is making plays," Bitonio said.
While Donald is a focal point of Bitonio and the rest of the Cleveland offensive line's gameplan, the Browns running backs also have to be mindful of where he is at all times.
"As a running back and as everyone on the field, we have to know where he is on every play because he is such a big time player," Chubb said. "We have to know where he is, what he is doing and get some hands on him."
Like Kitchens, Bitonio also has Senior Bowl memories of Donald. He went up against him that same year Kitchens was there and has faced him twice since in his pro career.
Where offensive linemen fall short in blocking Donald, according to Bitonio, is panicking as soon as he makes his first step, causing the offensive lineman to overset or move too quickly.
Thus, the best way to avoid getting beat by Donald is trusting your technique and situational awareness.
"If you are perfect in your technique, you have a chance," Bitonio said. "You take that bad step and lean or do something wrong, that is when he takes advantage of it."