The Los Angeles Rams have very few familiar faces remaining from their years of success and their world championship at Super Bowl LVI. One of those faces is superstar defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who remains with the team after twice flirting with a potential retirement. He chose to come back, and now sits as the leader of a new look Rams defense.
This year more than ever, Donald is going to have to take charge as an emotional leader and a leader by example. The Rams are employing a young defense filled with new faces after trading away multiple core pieces like Jalen Ramsey during the offseason.
Donald, because of this, has a different feeling heading into 2023 than he had entering previous campaigns. After missing time with an injury last season, he is just excited to get back on the field.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that. I would say just because of playing with new guys,” Donald said. “Obviously got to go through this process with them and get a little feel for how they play and what they can do.
“But you know, it’s like coming with a new team pretty much so just ready to go play this week though. It’s been a while for me. I haven’t played since December so to get back out there, I’m excited. I got the jitters so I’m just ready to go.”
Donald also spoke about how his ankle injury has affected his mindset as he prepares for the start of 2023.
“I wouldn’t say nervous, it’s more anxious. Just trying to get on the field,” Donald said. “I ain’t played since we played the Chiefs so it’s been a while. You miss the game. You miss the whole experience of being on the field and going against the team and trying to find a way to win. So it’s been a while for me, so it’s more you get the butterflies and just anxious to get on the field. I wish we could play right now, but still got a couple days so it is just more like that for me.”
But Donald is excited about the prospect of what he calls a low pressure season, knowing that expectations are not with the Rams to do well.
“I don’t mind it, because it’s like ain’t no pressure at all. Obviously, the past couple years you been praised so high, now everybody is against you kind of thing. You hear it, but me personally, kind of trying to feed off it a little bit because we all need something to try to push us a little bit. So it is different, but I’m for the challenge. It’s a different type of challenge this year, so for me I’m looking forward to it.”
If Donald can find a way to propel the Rams defense to a decent position in 2023, it would be another feather in his cap of potentially being one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. The Rams, especially defensively, are not built to win in 2023. But Donald is the type of player that can transform any defense into a good one.
Rams wide receivers stepping up in Kupp’s absence
With star wide receiver Cooper Kupp out for potentially multiple weeks due to a hamstring issue, it’s up to the other receivers — Van Jefferson, Puka Nacua, Ben Skowronek and Tutu Atwell — to step up in his place.
All four know what need to be done to make up for Kupp’s absence and are prepared for the challenge.