Gerald McCoy doesn’t need to game plan for Aaron Donald, but the Bucs three-time All-Pro defensive tackle likes what he sees.

“I love watching him,” McCoy said from in front of his locker Tuesday. “I’m a fan of football, I say that all the time, and any defensive lineman that can play the game I love to watch.”

Donald burst onto the NFL scene last year when his nine sacks trailed only the 10 racked up by Buffalo’s Marcell Dareus for the league lead at defensive tackle. That effort helped Donald earn a trip to the Pro Bowl and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year awards from the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers of America.

He hasn’t taken his foot off the gas since.

Donald squashed thoughts of a sophomore slump by beginning the 2015 campaign with two sacks of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson and is now fifth in the NFL with 11, the most of any interior lineman.

“He’s so explosive,” McCoy said of Donald. “The thing about him is he’s a small guy which helps. It’s hard to get underneath his pads. He’s a freak athlete. If you go back to his combine numbers – he had exceptional numbers – but not only that, he can play the game.”

At 6-foot-1, 285 pounds, Donald is considered slightly undersized for a professional defensive tackle by about 10-20 pounds. That hasn’t seemed to matter much for the former Pitt Panther; so much so that he’s drawing comparisons from Bucs evaluators to another massively disruptive defensive force.

“We have an advanced scout that scouts teams a couple weeks in advance and they told me that he was on the same level as J.J. Watt,” Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said Tuesday. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, that’s hard to believe.’ When it came my time to watch the tape I said, ‘Wow, he’s on the same level as J.J. Watt.’

“This guy’s having a fantastic year. Definitely a game-wrecker for this game.”

One of the Bucs set to get his first up-close-and-personal look at Donald is center Joe Hawley. The young Ram experienced a pair of first-ever professional moments during last year’s 19-17 Week 2 win in Tampa Bay – a sack and a victory – but Hawley was still in Atlanta at that time.

“He’s definitely one of the top two or three, if not the best, D-tackle in the league,” Hawley said. “He’s got it all, he’s the whole package. He’s quick, strong, he can adjust his pass-rush move in the middle of a rush; he’s very good. He’s one of the best players on their defense so we’ve got to control what he does, limit the plays he can make. He’s going to make some plays but we’ve just got to know where he’s at in the defense the whole time.”

Focusing on Donald has been made a little easier for Rams opponents this season because of the injury bug. Defensive end Robert Quinn has been out with a back injury for the past six games and outside linebacker Alec Ogletree was lost for the season in Week 4.

Thought of heading into the season as a legitimate contender to Seattle in the NFC West, St. Louis’ season got off the tracks with a five-game skid that ended last weekend at home against Detroit. The Rams’ banged-up defense enters Thursday ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring (20.8) and surrendered an average of 24.3 over the past six, including 27 or more three times.

“I think even though the last six weeks were overshadowed by the losing streak, he has really made a difference up front,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said of Donald during his Tuesday afternoon conference call with Tampa Bay media members. “He’s very difficult to block and I imagine it’s going to be a tough time on a short week to get him blocked.”

Even with the injuries and underwhelming team stats, Bucs offensive linemen are preparing for a battle nonetheless.

“It’s a challenge,” Hawley said. “It kind of puts to the test what you can do – challenges you in the pass protection and run game. But you go up against a team like that and you take care of business, it feels a little bit better. But they’ve definitely got a good group and good depth. They can rotate guys in that are just as good as the guys in there starting. So it’s going to be a big challenge.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Eric Horchy

Subscribe
Notify of
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Entre
Entre
5 years ago

McCoy needs to show up and out play Donald this week. Hopefully he steps up to the challenge.

scubog
scubog
5 years ago

I really wanted to draft this guy when he came out.

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  scubog
5 years ago

Me too Scubog, me too. I wanted him over Evans even though we had McCoy and McDonald and WR was the bigger need because I thought A. Donald was the BPA. In my book you always draft the BPA regardless of need and position. The jury is still out on who the better player is between Evans and Donald since it’s a 3 year evaluation, but right now I give the edge to Donald. I don’t know where we would have stuck Donald had we drafted him, but my vote would have been to start him at NT, rotate in… Read more »

deeznuts
deeznuts
Reply to  pinkstob
5 years ago

100% with you guys on this one. Not that Evans hasn’t lived up to his expectations but Aaron Donald is a freak. I’ve never seen a DT with that kind of speed and hand strength. Pairing him with McCoy would have been an elite combo for years……

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 years ago

We need to draft the next Donald in this draft. McCoy has never been the dominant 3 tech we need. He’s been a part of every dismal defense we’ve had under three coaches. He’s never taken over a game, he doesn’t make anyone around him better. He’s been pancaked more then he has sacks. I know, he’s playing hurt. News flash, everyones playing hurt this time of year. The greats rise up, they get a stop, they don’t get chewed out on the sideline by their position coach. Our D played better the week before without him. As the clock… Read more »

macabee
macabee
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

I’m not suggesting we draft a DT in the 1st round, but if we were so inclined, the guy that compares to Donald is DT Andrew Billings/Baylor – built like a small dump truck with tons of power.
Might want to pass on DT Robert Nkemdiche, he just fell out of an Atlanta hotel window before being caught with synthetic marijuana! lol.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
Reply to  surferdudes
5 years ago

I understand you’re disappointed in GMC @surferdudes….but to cut GMC loose and draft a new 3-tech would be such a Buccaneers move….we would be watching GMC tear-up the league for the next 5 years winning superbowls with Seattle or New England or whoever….LOL….

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
Reply to  EastEndBoy
5 years ago

When it comes to Mccoy, you’d never cut the guy, heck you could get a 1st rounder for him. As for Donald, I knew this guy would be a monster when he came out, but we had much more pressing need at the time.
I am in agreement with Surfer though, Mccoy needs to show up for a change.

matador
matador
5 years ago

I agree completely. I too wanted Donald, but we had too many other holes to fill after years of poor drafting. Donald appears to be everything GMC was supposed to be. I’ve posted in the past that GMC is a bust based on his production vs draft spot and cap cost, and was flamed for doing it. But at this stage it’s clear. One ? worth asking is how much poor coaching and changing scheme have contributed but at the end of the day he just hasn’t put up the #s. While many heralded our new front office, the same… Read more »

wnb0395
wnb0395
5 years ago

I hope the Bucs show up to play Thursday. I cant wait. I finally get to see them play live for the first time this year. Living in KC and being a Bucs fan sucks because I very seldom get to see them play live. I will also be in town next weekend for the holidays and I am trying to get tix to the Bucs-Bears game. If anyone has them or knows where to get some let me know please.

jongruden
jongruden
5 years ago

I think u guys are way to hard on McCoy he has been playing hurt for the past few weeks and gets double teamed as he has zero help along the line, hell, he has 7 sacks for the yr, people love Gholdston for having a whopping 3 sacks. That kind of knee jerk reaction reminds me of when a lot of posters last yr were wanting Doug Martin out of here, see how quickly that changed, relax Bucs Fans on the knee jerk readtion stuff cause McCoy is still a top 5 DT in the League, and drafting another… Read more »

matador
matador
Reply to  jongruden
5 years ago

It’s not knee jerk. It’s been this way throughout his career. He simply hasn’t delivered first round, tens and tens of millions of $ production. Lots of excuses but it is what it is.