Aaron Donald

49ers focused on stopping Aaron Donald, won't overlook Rams' defense

NBC Universal, Inc.

SANTA CLARA – Since Aaron Donald began wreaking havoc on the NFL as a rookie in 2014, 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster has seen the Los Angeles Rams star create chaos all across the defensive line. Whether it’s either defensive tackle position, either defensive end or lining up as the nose tackle, Foerster has witnessed all the creative ways Donald can be utilized.

The coach even remembers Donald lining up off the ball before in the past.

"I've seen him on all five spots across the line and they just put him in a position where they think they can get him in a 1-on-1 matchup without somebody helping – trying to create 1-on-1 rushes for him,” Foerster said Thursday after 49ers practice at Levi’s Stadium. “And you see him everywhere. Everybody's going to see him. I think he'll favor our right side, and based on how we set things up too, because they kind of know what we're trying to do to them. So, when we show a certain formation, they may put him somewhere else thinking that's where the 1-on-1's going to be."

Donald is in his 10th season for the Rams. He has been named to the Pro Bowl all nine years of his career, First-Team All-Pro seven times and is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. At 6-foot-1 and 280 pounds, Donald isn’t your prototypical defensive lineman. His game isn’t reach and length, it’s strength and power.

More times than not, Donald uses his uniqueness to his advantage. But the 49ers have had some success against him. Donald doesn’t have a sack against San Francisco’s offensive line since the teams' second 2020 matchup.

In 17 career games against the 49ers, Donald has recorded 12.5 sacks but only one in the last six games.

"What's funny is you can put together a highlight reel of some players that you probably wouldn't know who they were blocking him at times because when you do the right things against Aaron, he is a smaller guy, but getting your hands to that spot are almost impossible and he makes it impossible to do it,” Foerster said. “Even when you do, he has the counter moves to take it off of him. So, he's just got a complete package.”

The Rams shocked many in their season-opening 30-13 win against the Seahawks in Seattle. Donald now is the only star face of a defense for a team that won the Super Bowl two seasons ago and will remain the main focus, but those around him showed they’re here to prove themselves in that Week 1 win.

That’s George Kittle’s message to his 49ers teammates, one he knows the rest of the team shares with him: These guys can’t be underestimated.

“Everybody’s been talking down on the Rams,” Kittle said Thursday, before shedding doubt that any reporters had the Rams beating the Seahawks last week. “They showed up and their effort every single play on defense … Aaron Donald’s still Aaron Donald. He’s incredible and you have to account for him every single play.

“But while you might not notice every single guy’s name, their whole defense they have effort, they have a really good coach and they’re going to try really hard. They won a Super Bowl a couple years ago, they know exactly what they’re going to get from us. It’s going to be a good game and it’s going to be very gritty.

“It’s going to be a really good game because they put a lot of effort out there and they have guys who really want to play. Some of their guys are second-string guys the last couple of years who are getting an opportunity to start and you can see why they’re starters now.”

The Rams defense held the Seahawks to only 180 total yards – 95 passing and 85 rushing – and a measly 3.4 yards per pass. Quarterback Geno Smith was sacked twice, and Donald was responsible for just half a sack. Third-round rookie Byron Young also had half a sack, as well as third-round rookie Kobie Turner and undrafted third-year pro Michael Hoecht.

RELATED: Five 49ers to watch vs. Rams

Sunday’s Rams-49ers showdown at SoFi Stadium will be the 12th for Kittle and the first for quarterback Brock Purdy. Donald was the first person Purdy brought up when asked about the Rams’ defense and says the 49ers are studying their past success against LA. To keep his regular-win streak alive in his first taste of this rivalry, Purdy isn’t changing a thing.

“Keep it simple,” Purdy said. “Just play ball, play our ball.”

Download and follow the 49ers Talk Podcast

Contact Us