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Rams defensive line will present sizable challenge for New Orleans Saints offense

DT Aaron Donald leads NFL with 10 sacks

Saints 30 - Vikings 20(W)

New Orleans Saints 2018 Season

Michael C.  Hebert
Saints 30 - Vikings 20(W) New Orleans Saints 2018 Season Michael C. Hebert

No introductions are required for the offense of the New Orleans Saints (6-1) and the defense of the Los Angeles Rams (8-0) on Sunday as New Orleans attempts to extend its winning streak to seven games in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Rams defensive line is star-studded enough that there barely are enough studs to assign to the stars.

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who's a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, leads the league with 10 sacks. Tackle Ndamukong Suh, a five-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, has three sacks and two passes defensed.

Defensive end Michael Brockers, a first-round pick in 2012, moved from tackle to end and had at least three sacks in four of his first six seasons. And this week the Rams added former first-round pick Dante Fowler to the mix, a defensive end who had eight sacks and two forced fumbles last year with Jacksonville, and had two sacks and a forced fumble in seven games before the trade.

It's a challenge the likes of which few NFL teams can offer.

"It presents a ton of problems," Saints Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday. "First off, the talent, when you're talking about some of the top tackles and ends in the business. That, in itself, is difficult.

"And then, when you put it with an outstanding scheme, then you've really got a challenge. We're going to work hard this week, as best we can, to simulate the movement. But guys like Donald, Suh, Brockers and these guys – they do a great job just putting your guards and putting your tackles on edges."

The Rams' front is a disruptive unit. Overall, the defense has 22 sacks (tied for eighth in the league), seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and two safeties (tied for first).

But the production begins, and often ends, up front. And, specifically, Donald and Suh are the headache suppliers.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said that, perhaps, he hasn't seen a more formidable duo playing defensive tackle.

"I don't think so," he said. "Not since we (at Purdue) played the University of Georgia in 1999, in the Outback Bowl, and it was Marcus Stroud and Richard Seymour. That was a pretty stout defensive interior front.

"At this level, it's really unheard of to have Suh and Donald in there. Those guys are unbelievable."

Donald, having another season that will result in honors, garners the attention not only of offensive linemen, but also of defensive linemen. Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who was compared physically to Donald when he was drafted in 2016 – Rankins is 6 fee 2, 305 pounds and Donald is 6-0, 284 – said he watches Donald's work.

"He's probably the best defensive tackle I've ever watched," Rankins said. "There's really not anything he doesn't do well. He's a helluva player.

"I'm confident in me, but Aaron's in a class by himself.

"When we're done watching our game and I'm done studying, I usually cut on his tape and see what he's done. You can study him, but there's some things he just does off God-given ability, natural talent that you can't duplicate."

The Saints won't be looking to duplicate it Sunday, just slow it – and Donald's teammates – down long enough to operate an efficient offense.

Saints 30 - Vikings 20(W)

New Orleans Saints 2018 Season

Michael C.  Hebert

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