Warning to Buccaneers: Rams’ Aaron Donald not kidding about needing more sacks
After placing his phone on the shelf of his locker Friday, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald turned to face reporters.
Donald’s children were visible on the phone screen, and they were watching their father on FaceTime.
“They said they want five sacks,” Donald said, “so I got to get myself going.”
Donald recorded his first sack of the season in a victory over the Cleveland Browns last week. He intends to build on that Sunday when the unbeaten Rams play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Coliseum.
“When plays present themselves, I can’t miss ’em. I got to make ’em,” Donald said. “So it’s good to have one, but I’ve got to get myself going.
“I’m trying to produce a little bit more.”
Donald had 20 ½ sacks last season, the most by an interior lineman in NFL history.
The two-time NFL defensive player of the year faced double teams through most of the 2018 season, but opponents have taken that strategy to greater lengths this season.
The attention paid to Donald has enabled other Rams to thrive. Linebacker Clay Matthews has four sacks; Dante Fowler, two and Michael Brockers, one.
Todd Gurley is involved in 15% fewer snaps and Jared Goff no longer benefits from that dominating presence. The Rams’ offense is not the same.
Donald said he cannot get frustrated. With other players taking advantage of one-on-one opportunities, opponents will have to adjust.
“It’s going to eventually open me back up,” he said. “As long as somebody’s making the plays, and making ’em pay for it, we’re going to be fine.”
Cornerback Aqib Talib began his NFL career with the Buccaneers, so he still has a soft spot in his heart for the organization.
“They made me a millionaire,” said Talib, who was selected by the Buccaneers with the 20th pick in the 2008 NFL draft. “Took a chance on me.”
Talib, 33, played four-plus seasons for the Buccaneers before he was traded to the New England Patriots during the 2012 season. In 2014, he signed a six-year, $57-million free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos, and helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 at the end of the 2015 season.
The Rams know stopping Ndamukong Suh will be among the biggest challenges they face Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Rams traded for Talib, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, before the 2018 season.
Talib said the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, looked past “red flags” from his college days at Kansas that might have caused Talib to fall in the draft, and gave him an opportunity.
Talib had several off-the-field issues in college, during his time with the Buccaneers and also with the Broncos. But his time with the Rams has been marked by his leadership and strong play. Talib is earning $8 million this season in the final year of his contract.
It all started in Tampa Bay.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said. “I love Tampa for that.”
Higbee, Blythe return
The Rams’ offense will be back to full strength against the Buccaneers.
Tight end Tyler Higbee and offensive lineman Austin Blythe, who sat out against the Browns because of injuries, will play Sunday, coach Sean McVay said.
Higbee and Blythe were injured during the same play in the Rams’ 27-9 victory over the Saints on Sept. 15 at the Coliseum. Higbee suffered a bruised lung, Blythe a left ankle sprain. Both sat out last week’s 20-13 victory over the Browns. Gerald Everett started in place of Higbee; Jamil Demby, in place of Blythe.
John Johnson and Eric Weddle are in unison when patrolling the Rams’ secondary even if their personalities aren’t the same.
Higbee, who signed a four-year, $29-million extension before the season, has caught six passes for 41 yards and a touchdown. Blythe is in his third year as a starter with the Rams.
McVay on the Twitter dust-up between Rams safety Eric Weddle and currently unemployed NFL receiver Antonio Brown on Thursday: “He’s smart enough to know it was in good fun,” McVay said of Weddle. “I don’t think there was any ill will.” McVay said that when it comes to social media, “there is an element of, ‘You’ve got to let guys live,’ and understand there’s a life that they have outside of it.” McVay added, “I’m not on some of those social media things. It’s probably a good thing; I’d probably get my feelings hurt on it,” he said, laughing. ... Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin, who has been nursing a hip injury, practiced for the first time this week and was limited, according to the injury report. Godwin is listed as questionable.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.