NFC West Notes: Aaron Donald, 49ers, Rams

     

Aaron Donald

Rams DT Aaron Donald is at training camp for the first time in two years after skipping training camp during contract disputes. Though Donald has won Defensive Player of the Year each of those seasons, it’s taken him a few games to really get going. He’s hoping a full training camp means a faster start in 2019. 

“Hopefully, it don’t take me four games to get going this year,” Donald said via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “So I think it’s going to be a plus for me getting here and getting going right away. If anything, I should be better.”

49ers

49ers LB Kwon Alexander says he’s feeling better than good as he returns to the field following an ACL injury in 2018

“I feel legendary,” Alexander said via ESPN’s Nick Waggoner. “I’m just getting back out there with my team, just being back on the field, it’s been amazing.”

“I don’t like to use the word good,” Alexander continued when asked about his particular phrasing. “I’m trying to be better than that. So, I just use that to keep my mindset where it needs to be and that’s what it is.”

The 49ers have spent a number of resources on their defensive line in recent years, which should lead to intense competition for spots in training camp this year. Whoever makes the team will have a chance to make an impact, as 49ers DC Robert Saleh plans to employ a heavy rotation to make sure no one player is in for more than 70 percent of the snaps. He’ll be helped out by what he calls “the most versatile d-line in football” including Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Nick Bosa.

“There’s really no starters on the d-line,” Saleh said via the Athletic’s Matt Barrows. Dee Fords obviously an end. But you’re going to see Armstead at nose, you’re going to see Armstead at end. You’re going to see Buck at nose, you might see Buck at end. You’ll see Bosa outside. You might see Bosa on the inside depending on the down and distance and the situation. You’ll see Solly (Solomon Thomas) outside, inside. You’re going to see a tremendous amount of versatility from that group.”

  • Saleh adds Jullian Taylor will play exclusively inside as a defensive tackle. Kentavius Street will balance between end and defensive tackle as he works back from injury. 
  • Saleh mentions wanting to play DB D.J. Reed more exclusively at corner and nickel. Reed saw time at safety in 2018 as a rookie. 
  • 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan mentioned Thursday for when the 49ers could potentially activate RB Jerick McKinnon from the PUP list. (Matt Maiocco)

Rams

The Rams gave WR Robert Woods a pay raise they didn’t have to recently, folding incentives into the guaranteed money figure for his deal. Los Angeles is also expected to revisit Woods‘ deal at some point, as the veteran has outperformed the deal he signed in 2017. 

“If you perfect your craft, you’re going to get paid for it, just like Picasso,” Woods said via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “This out here is an art. I feel like if I perfect my routes and my game, it will be worth a lot of money.”

  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer mentions early next year as a timeframe for an extension for Rams QB Jared Goff.
  • Per Yahoo!’s Charles Robinson, Goff has continued to develop physically and has his strongest mental grasp of the offense to date. 
  • Robinson sees RB Malcolm Brown and third-round RB Darrell Henderson combing for at least a third of the team’s snaps, with HC Sean McVay utilizing Henderson like he did Redskins RB Chris Thompson in Washington. 
  • Robinson says the Rams should still be able to have success throwing the ball, as long as the offensive line meshes, because of their continuity at the skill positions. 
  • Robinson notes moving on from DT Ndamukong Suh will be addition by subtraction, as Suh wasn’t a good culture fit and was hard for former DL coach Bill Johnson to handle.
  • Robinson mentions free-agent additions LB Clay Matthews and S Eric Weddle as high-character leaders for the Rams defense. 
  • Robinson highlights fifth-round OL David Edwards and 2018 sixth-round DT Sebastian Joseph-Day as late-round picks the Rams see as future starters. 

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