RSP Tweet of The Week: Brandon Thorn’s Eight Favorite Plays of Rams DT Aaron Donald in 2017

Matt Waldman’s RSP Twitter Thread of the Week shares USA Football Writer Brandon Thorn’s analysis thread of Aaron Donald.

Twitter is the place for football analysis. Last week, I shared Will Hewlett’s break-down of Aaron Rodgers’ various throwing motions. This week, Brandon Thorn — one of my upcoming RSP Cast guests to discuss defensive line play — shared eight of his favorite plays from Aaron Donald’s 2017 campaign.

Thorn edits these in rapid succession to fit on Twitter, which means you may need to watch them several times to truly get a sense of Donald’s technical brilliance. We all know he’s an explosive powerhouse but what continually amazes me about Donald’s game is the precision of his hands to reach the exact target points of his opponent and do it this rapidly.

  • Play 1: Donald is seamless with his reaction to what the opponent presents him. When the guard doesn’t get his hands up fast enough, Donald gets into the body, pushes the guard back and then swats and rips outside.
  • Play 2: The sack against the Falcons is a brilliant play. Donald raises the outside arm of the guard away from his shoulder as he pulls the blocker forward by the chest plate, sending the guard chest-first to the turf.  It looks like a move from a martial arts movie.
  • Play 3: The Saints’ guard meets Donald square and extends his arms but he’s overextending his frame, hoping to his hands on the tackle. Donald swipes inside out with both hands to swat both arms away and then swims the defender’s outside shoulder.
  • Play 4: Donald earns enough pressure against this triple team to move the quarterback in the pocket. He works a wide enough angle towards the outside that he knows the center’s hips will be too open to completely stop him from splitting the center-guard crease with a swim move. This is like a press-and-cut setup of a crease for a running back.
  • Play 5: This is one of my favorites because of how smoothly Donald uses his right arm to block the reach of the guard’s inside arm as he begins his path to the outside and that semi-circular motion of the arm block also helps Donald get his hand on the outside arm of the opponent to set up a swim move back to the inside. The hard-charging move outside with that semi-circle of a block forces the guard to commit so hard to the outside that Donald’s swim from outside shoulder to inside shoulder looks easy.
  • Play 6: This is just nice awareness of what’s about to happen and good burst down the line in pursuit.
  • Play 7:  Difficult to see at first, but Donald throws a head fake to the outside and swims to the inside of his opponent. The head fake forces the outside commitment by the lineman and leaves Donald wide open for the penetration into the backfield.
  • Play 8: Another quick swim set up with just enough positioning to fool the guard into thinking this would be a head-on struggle.

Whether it’s defensive line play or wide receiver play, the best players land their hands with precision. They also use movements that have the dual purpose of defending an opponent’s attack while setting up a counter.

If I Donald could catch well and I needed a trick play in the red zone, I’d consider him at tight end strictly due to his quickness and hands to work free from the line of scrimmage.

You can find Brandon’s entire compilation of Donald’s 2017 season here:

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