Does Aaron Donald really need training camp?
It’s a fair question since the defensive tackle has won back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year awards without being around the team in August. In fact, Donald played only 14 games back in 2017 — missing Week 1 and Week 17 — and was nevertheless named the league’s best defensive player that season.
But after a year where Donald set a franchise record and a league record for interior linemen with 20.5 sacks, he’s now expected to attend training camp in 2019 — for the first time since Sean McVay took over as head coach.
So that’s going to be a change for McVay, who said at this week's league meetings that the Rams are going to have to be “smart” about crafting a summer plan for Donald.
“Aaron’s such a great competitor, but then also he can ruin a practice if you’re trying to have some offensive production,” McVay said Tuesday morning before joking, “But Aaron better be there in training camp.”
“But we talk about those things all the time,” McVay continued. “We always monitor our players. But specific to a guy like Aaron, who pushes himself — I think it’ll be great to get that work earlier than what he’s gotten the last couple years. And he’s got a specific process that clearly has helped him.”
“Clearly has helped him” to the tune of 31.5 sacks, 40 tackles for loss, 68 quarterback hits, and nine forced fumbles over the last two regular seasons.
And yet, McVay said even Donald would note that training camp does serve a purpose, and might even be able to help the famed defensive tackle.
“I think what he would tell you that’s been really unique just talking to Aaron is, you can’t truly mimic and emulate putting pads on, playing in a game-like setting,” McVay said. “And I think we will take a very similar approach to what we did in the preseason. So I think for us, it’s how can you find a way to create those competitive environments while minimizing the risk of injury. So I don’t think you’ll see him play in the preseason, but we’ll try to create those settings in practice and practice against some different different teams that we play — like what we did with Baltimore. We’ll look to really take advantage of those situations as much as possible.”
Los Angeles has announced only one preseason date so far — Aug. 17 against the Cowboys in Hawaii. The rest should be announced in the next couple weeks, along with the regular-season schedule.