GREEN BAY – It’s not a word Mike McCarthy uses often, but he used it twice on Tuesday to describe a pair of Los Angeles Rams.
“He’s a dominant player,” McCarthy said of Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, who leads the NFL with eight sacks. “He’s clearly one of the best or the best defensive player in the league.”
Donald racked up four sacks as part of L.A.’s seven-sack performance in beating San Francisco this past Sunday. He’s the toughest guy to handle on a dynamic defensive front that will be looking to make life difficult for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Now in his fifth season, Donald is coming off winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017. He became the first pure defensive tackle to win the award this century.
He tied his career high a year ago with 11 sacks, and he had 39 career sacks in four seasons heading into this year. He’s obviously on pace for another career high with eight through seven games for the unbeaten Rams.
The other player who received a similar description from McCarthy is Rams running back Todd Gurley.
“He’s been dominant at times and taken games over,” McCarthy said of the fourth-year back. “He’s obviously a focal point for us.”
Coming off a 1,300-yard season a year ago, Gurley leads the NFL with 686 rushing yards to date. He already has 11 rushing touchdowns, two shy of his career high from last year, when he won NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Gurley has topped 100 yards just three times in seven games, but one of those was a 208-yard performance at Denver two weeks ago. He’s averaging a robust 4.8 yards per carry and has scored multiple touchdowns in four contests, including a pair of games with three rushing TDs.
Gurley also has 25 receptions for 270 yards and three more scores as a huge part of the Rams’ high-flying offense. Quarterback Jared Goff is the trigger man, but Gurley is as key as any individual piece because of his all-around game.
“He’s on a tremendous pace right now, and I think the numbers speak for themselves,” McCarthy said. “He’s a complete back. He can run the football at an extremely high level, and what he does in the pass-protection and receiving aspects too, he’s a complete player.”
The Packers begin their on-field preparation for Sunday’s game in L.A. with a practice on Tuesday. Packers.com will have more later following locker room interviews.