For the 2nd time in 3 years, Future Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald is coming to Indy to face off against the Colts and their superstar Guard Quenton Nelson. These two powerhouses of the interior lines will be sure provide excellent matchups against each other for trench junkies everywhere. How did these two behemoths do in their 1st encounter, and who will come out on top in Round 2?
Round 1: Colts vs. Rams Week 2 of 2021
The Colts lost to the Rams 24-27 in a nail-biting game. Colts QB Carson Wentz left the game late in the 4th quarter due to injury after being pressured on 17 of his 39 dropbacks (43.59%).
This left 2nd year Jacob Eason to play his 1st NFL game and try to secure a game-winning/tying in 2 drives in the last 2:23 seconds of the game. Despite only being pressured in 1 of his 5 dropbacks, Eason went 2/5 passing for 40 yards and 1 INT in his brief opportunity, costing the Colts a chance at Victory over the eventual 2021 Super Bowl Champions.
Aaron Donald himself had a strong game versus the Colts in 2021. His Pass Rush Statline:
- 8 pressures
- 20% pressure %
- 3 QB Hits
- 7.5% QB Hit %
- 0 sacks
Despite not getting to Carson Wentz for a sack, Aaron Donald was a disruptive force against the Colts OL in the passing game. However, what is important to note is that Donald moved around the line and rushed via twists and stunts at times. This means he was not lined up against Nelson for many snaps. So how did Nelson do in pass protection this game in his 44 pass-pro snaps against all the Rams Defenders?
- 0 Pressures Allowed
- 0 QB Hits Allowed
- 0 Sacks Allowed
With both players having strong performances on passing plays, there’s a wonder if they even played snaps against each other. Thanks to Baldy’s Breakdowns, we can see that the two Goliaths of the Gridiron did play snaps against each other.
Nelson was the only Colts OL able to stop Aaron Donald in pass rush situations, as Donald clearly dominated elsewhere along the line.
On Rushing plays, however, Aaron Donald and Quenton Nelson had very different games. Nelson struggled in run blocking against the Rams with a 47.5 graded game. Meanwhile, Donald had a really good game with 4 solos, 3 assists, and 3 run stops with a 79-graded game in Run Defense. They each had some solid snaps against each other, but with Donald being a more consistent force on run plays.
So while Aaron Donald had the better overall game of the two, when matched up against each other it was a split game with Nelson having the edge in the pass blocking and Donald having his way in the run defense.
Round 2: Week 4 of 2023
Who shall win their rematch this Sunday? Let’s see how both Nelson and Donald have performed so far in 2023:
As you can see both Nelson and Donald are dominating on pass plays in 2023, but playing below their standard when it comes to run plays. So far Aaron Donald has been higher graded in both, with a +4.8 grade advantage in pass and a +14.7 advantage in the run plays. Both players are coming off of their best two games of the season in pass plays, however, Nelson has struggled in run blocking in the last two weeks while Aaron Donald rebounded from a rough week 1 in run defense for a solid 2-game stretch.
Will the momentum of both players on run downs lead to a dominant showing by Aaron Donald? Or will Nelson rebound in time for his toughest assignment of the year? Could Quenton Nelson give up his 1st sack of the season versus Donald and allow his first multi-pressure game of the season? Or will he stop Donald when lined up against him again? We will find out this Sunday who will be the victor of this marquee matchup.
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