Aaron Donald has only practiced with the Rams six times this season, but he’s still expected to get plenty of snaps against the Raiders.
Any Oakland Raiders fans hoping that the Rams might hold Aaron Donald back on Monday night need to think again. Despite the fact that Donald only ended his holdout approximately a week ago, Sean McVay and company plan to turn him loose against Oakland.
That’s bad news for Jon Gruden’s offense. Donald is one of the few players in the NFL who requires a double team on almost every snap. Keeping him out of the backfield will be the first priority for the Raiders offense, but that task is easier said than done.
That’s why McVay’s recent admission that Donald won’t have any restrictions on his snap count Monday will be a disappointment to the Raiders. The only good news is that the interior of Gruden’s offensive line is one of the team’s relative strengths. Even so, Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele are going to have their hands full on Monday. Their ability to neutralize Donald at the point of attack will go a long way toward determining whether or not the Raiders can keep this game competitive.
Some of Oakland’s ability to successfully contend with Donald may depend on the health of running back Marshawn Lynch. That fact that he’s been limited for the Raiders in practice this week is not a positive sign. If he can’t power his team to a solid rushing performance it’s going to put a ton of pressure on Derek Carr to win this game with his arm.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, that’s when playing against Donald gets really dangerous. While he’s an excellent run defender, he’s an elite pass rusher. He managed to notch 11 sacks in 14 games last season despite facing double teams on almost every snap. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him get to Carr once or twice in this game.
Donald won’t play every snap for the Rams in their season opener, but he’ll play enough to be a real problem for Gruden’s offense. The Pro Bowl defender’s extended holdout isn’t going to provide the Raiders with any respite.