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Aaron Donald letting his production speak for him

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald just won't stop making noise.

"Gosh, I wish he would stop talking so much," middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said, a grin creeping across his face.

Laurinaitis is, of course, only joking. Donald is probably the last player anyone in the Rams locker room would accuse of being too verbose. To see Donald's mouth moving is to know that he's probably been asked a question.

But while Donald isn't one to run his mouth, the part about him making noise absolutely stands. It's just that Donald announces his presence on a football field by what he does, not what he says.

"Aaron is extremely quiet; I love the way he goes about it," Laurinaitis said. "He’s 100 miles per hour all the time. I’ve never been around a D-tackle like that. When you first see him, you’re like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ But his quickness is uncanny for the position and he’s able to be disruptive. I’ve been extremely impressed with him. He doesn’t look at the season so far as a success for himself. I know he looks at it as, 'How can I get better?' Which I can definitely appreciate."

When it comes to Donald, there's plenty for the Rams and their fans to appreciate. When the team spent the No. 13 overall pick on Donald in May's draft, nobody questioned Donald's talent but there were plenty of questions if the Rams would be better served taking a position of more pressing need such as cornerback, receiver or even quarterback.

But the Rams' biggest need then and now remains blue-chip players capable of becoming among the league's best at their respective position. Only eight games into his career, Donald has already set his trajectory toward becoming one of those players who consistently ends every season with a trip to Hawaii.

At the halfway point of his rookie season, Donald has 21 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble. According to the Rams' coaches review of the tape, Donald also has 11 tackles for loss, which leads the team. The coaching staff also credits Donald with 16 quarterback pressures and five quarterback hits, both of which rank second on the team.

“I think his statistics reflect the season that he’s having," coach Jeff Fisher said. "The tackles for losses, the consistency, the big plays. We’re just going to have to watch him because the season’s getting longer and longer. First-year players have difficulty with the length of the season. We’ll watch his reps, but he’s playing good football right now."

The statistics don't even really tell the complete story when it comes to Donald. Take last week's goal-line stand to beat San Francisco, for example. On the game-deciding fumble by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it was Donald who got off the snap fast and quickly lifted the 49ers' center up and backwards. That helped throw off Kaepernick's ability to cleanly take the snap and he fumbled the ball and the game away.

"He’s different," Laurinaitis said. "He can go ahead and do what he wants because he’s that quick that he’s going to disrupt the play regardless."

The soft-spoken Donald was more than willing to talk for this story, but true to his humble nature, it's hard to get him to talk about himself. For the record, he says he believes the first half of the season has flown by and while he believes he's done "pretty good," he is quick to say he has plenty of room for improvement.

As a defensive tackle, it can be hard to draw much attention to yourself, which means Donald might have an uphill climb to land in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year. But it's also important to note that he's only been starting and playing extended snaps since Oct. 13.

"Anytime you get more snaps, you get a better feel for the game," Donald said. "Things start to slow down and you get a lot more comfortable out there come game time. You tend to make a lot more plays and I feel like that’s been happening. But like I said, I feel like I’ve got a lot more improvement to do and I’m just trying to continue to build."

Now that he's playing more, his numbers and his profile should increase, even if his words per minute do not.