Aaron Donald held out all spring and summer from Los Angeles Rams activities, finally reporting for duty right before the regular season began without the new contract he’d been seeking.His pursuit of the ball has been far more fruitful.Midway through his fourth year in the NFL, Donald has established himself as the premier defensive tackle in the game. Though comparing different positions is a difficult assessment, Donald might be the best defensive player in the league. His dominance in the interior of the line is a significant reason why the Rams (6-2) were the first-half surprise success of the season.“Hall of Famers aren’t made three years in,” Rams general manager Les Snead said during training camp. “But if there’s a race to the gold jacket, he’s started strong.”His consistent disruption and production since being drafted in the first round out of Pittsburgh earned him a unanimous first place finish for NFL defensive tackles from an Associated Press panel in voting revealed Friday. Donald is the only unanimous winner of the 10 positions ranked thus far by the 11-person AP panel in the weekly installments published this season.The two-time All-Pro pick has 32 sacks in 55 career games. He’s a force against the run, too. Fierce and fast at 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds, Donald is quite the bargain for the Rams this year with a rookie-contract salary cap hit of a little more than $3.2 million. The below-market price won’t last much longer, though.“He seems to have answered questions pretty quickly of how he would adapt to a 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips,” said the AP’s Schuyler Dixon, who is based in Dallas.Donald was one of six defensive tackles listed on every ballot. The other five were Miami’s Ndamukong Suh, who finished second; Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox, who was third; Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins, who came in fourth; fifth-place finisher Damon Harrison of the New York Giants; and Carolina’s Kawann Short, who was eighth.Minnesota’s Linval Joseph took sixth, Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy came in seventh, San Francisco’s DeForest Buckner was ninth and Jacksonville’s Malik Jackson finished 10th to round out the results.The Dolphins made Suh the league’s highest-paid defensive player in 2015, and he has remained the threat in the middle he was in Detroit. The knock against his game has stuck with him, too — the propensity for penalties and needless personal fouls.“If he could just harness his emotions,” said the AP’s Arnie Stapleton, who’s based in Denver.While quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense has stolen the spotlight, Cox has been a significant factor in the team’s NFL-best 8-1 start. Despite missing two games to injury, he has 4½ sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one touchdown.“Don’t forget this important part of a defense that’s doing its part,” Dixon said.With 57 career sacks for the Bengals, Atkins leads all active interior linemen.“When healthy, Atkins is as good as any defensive tackle in football. But like many of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, the folks around him don’t measure up,” said the AP’s Barry Wilner, who’s based in New York.There’s hardly a better story of overcoming the odds in the NFL than Harrison. He hooked on with the Jets as an undrafted rookie in 2012 out of a small NAIA school in Iowa, William Penn, after barely playing in high school and being cut from the team in middle school while growing up poor near New Orleans. Now with the Giants with a big-money contract to boot, the man nicknamed “Big Snacks” has been eating up offensive linemen for years.“No one is better as a run stuffer,” said the AP’s Josh Dubow, who’s based in the Bay Area.___EDITOR’S NOTE – The Associated Press is ranking the top 10 players at a different position every week of the NFL season, based on votes by Pro Football Hall of Fame member James Lofton and AP football writers Simmi Buttar, Dave Campbell, Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Howard Fendrich, Rob Maaddi, Arnie Stapleton, Teresa M. Walker, Dennis Waszak Jr. and Barry Wilner. This feature will move on Fridays.___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.pro32.ap.org
Like us at https://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Pittsburgh-Courier/143866755628836?ref=hlFollow @NewPghCourier on Twitter https://twitter.com/NewPghCourier MALIK ELLISON is a junior transfer who averages roughly 10 points per game for the Pitt Panthers. (AP PHOTOS):10—And the reason was most evident as 12,000-plus filled up PPG Arena Friday night, Nov. 30, to see Pitt and Duquesne do battle. And do battle they did, well at least for the first 20 minutes. That second half was all the time Pitt needed to outlast Duquesne, while in the process, shaking off that loss to No. 14 Iowa a few days earlier. But, Duquesne showed they were serious about city bragging rights.:09—To be sure, Pitt won the game, 74–53, and if you got the score on ESPN the next day you would think blowout. But, it wasn’t as much that as it was a Tale of Two Cities. Pitt is just a deeper, more overall talented team. They can go seven, maybe eight men deep and stay in stride. But don’t get me wrong, Duquesne has a talented five, but not as talented as Pitt’s starting five.:08—And, that Pitt talent has been building and being talked about slowly but surely as Pitt has established a 6–1 record (their second loss came this past Monday, Dec. 4, to Niagara). The X-man, Xavier Johnson, leads the Panthers and has zero fear about shot attempts and trust me, the best is yet to come from him. He’s joined by several talented swing men in Malik Ellison and Trey McGowens and they are a pick-your-poison trio.PITT TAKES THE CITY GAME—Pitt’s Jared Wilson-Frame blocks a shot attempt by Duquesne’s Brandon Wade, in the annual City Game. Pitt won, 74-53, at PPG Paints Arena, Nov. 30.:07—Much the same can be said about the Dukes, but to a lesser degree. They have the goods and are an improving team under the tough and masterful direction of Coach Keith Dambrot. His hard-nosed, defensive style covers some loose ends, and the solid play of outstanding guard/forward Eric Williams and guards Mike Lewis and Tavian Dunn-Martin promises a great season on the Bluff for the Dukes.:06—Oh, BTW, a tremendous attaboy to the city folks and surrounding communities for coming out to support the City Game. Basketball is back in Pittsburgh, big time!:05—Let’s get this Part-Tee started right! I need to take care of…“The Locker Roomers,” my faithful readers and believers…yes sir!!! First, you, my man Greg Brown in the locker room. He’s been reading me while on vacation (you know, you know, you know!) and to the lovely Ms. Millie who I met this past weekend at the Reverend Darkins Senior Citizen Thanksgiving Dinner (sweet little thing but knows her stuff).:04—I am going to have to give you this hard and fast cause we’ve got the late game and national spotlight so I am going in early. Steelers and Big Ben take on the Chargers and Phil Rivers. And here are your five reasons. Why? Because I know you like “the lists.” 1. Needless to say and hell yea, Ben has to make up for that panic pass a few weeks ago against Denver that cost us the game. Not Conner’s fumble, BTW. 2. A.B. not saying or showing it, but trust me, he’s ticked off about the lack of passes and JuJu shining brighter. 3. With any luck at all James Washington won’t be playing. 4. The Chargers’ record is better than the teams they beat. 5. Because…we are…Pittsburgh! Well, wouldn’t ya know…Ben throws a touchdown to A.B., but also a bad interception, our special teams can’t figure out which side of the ball to be on when it’s snapped, and the Chargers left town, Dec. 2, with a victory over the Steelers, 33-30. Unbelievable!:03—The SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia was certainly the best I’ve seen all year. I mean good! A down-to-the-wire, 35–28 win for the Tide. And a classic, legendary, miraculous finish that will forever lock quarterback Jalen Hurts into Bear Bryant football history forever more. If you don’t know, just Google it, man!:02—If you need to know, here’s your moviegoers list. I know you love it, I know you need it, and I know you like those lists! 1. “Green Book”—a must-see true account of “when America was great!”…NOT!!! 2 “Creed II”—it’s just good, Rocky good. 3. “The Hate You Give”—but be ready to get mad. 4. “Robin Hood”—good, but not great; the wrong guy playing Robin. It should have been Chris Pratt. 5. “Bohemian Rhapsody”—if you lived through the music of the ‘70s and ‘80s, and, you know the music of Freddie Mercury and Queen, you will love it. Now go to the movies. You need a break.:01—If you’re reading this you need to be reminded that the last “Champions Live” Sports Talk Show at the Savoy will be this Thursday, Dec. 6. Before we break for the winter cold, Thursday’s show will feature former ABA and Pittsburgh Piper legend Cal Graham and members of that world champion franchise led by the late great Connie Hawkins. Also on the show, Connie Hawkins League Hall of Famers, Myron Brown, Gerald Lovelace, Mark Pinnix, Darelle Porter, Barnett Harris, and Bobby Franklin. Special guests will be Tim Stevens and the All-Star team of B-PEP.:00—GAME OVER.
WHILE she didn’t take out the win in her fashion category, this fruity finalist managed to score the most laughs…[To read the rest of this story Subscribe or Login to the Gazette Access Pass] Thanks for reading the Pakenham Berwick Gazette. Subscribe or Login to read the rest of this content with the Gazette Digital Access Pass subscription.