When the Dallas Cowboys traded back two spots to select Linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round, high expectations were placed upon him immediately. Not only did he meet them but he far exceeded them and was the driving force behind a Cowboys' defense that improved tremendously this season from the atrocity it was in 2020 by leading the NFL in turnovers and stopping third-down conversions.
Parsons tallied 84 tackles (20 tackles for loss), 13 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, and three passes defended while lining up at linebacker, defensive end, cornerback, and safety. The swiss army knife of the Dallas defense showed he can take on any assignment Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn puts in front of him, however, Parsons believes there's another plateau he can ascend to.
“Bro, I can get better everywhere,” Parsons said. “I can become a better pass-rusher. I can become a better linebacker. Like, anything. I just feel like I’m just out there raw and I was just learning and I grew and I kept getting better and better throughout the year. No one’s ever perfect. There’s always room to grow in many ways to get better.”
Parsons showed throughout his rookie campaign that he can continuously elevate his game. He registered 2.5 sacks over his first six games while adjusting to the level of play it takes to succeed in the league, but then he found his stride. Over the final two full months of the season, Parsons racked up 10.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and 18 quarterback hits. Over that same span, he recorded a sack in seven out of eight games including six straight from Week 9 through Week 14.
The former Penn State Nittany Lion has received a plethora of honors for his production. He was selected to the Pro Bowl, named a First-Team All-Pro, the Defensive Rookie of the Month twice, the NFC Defensive Player of the Year by the NFL's 101 awards, the Rookie of the Year as well as the Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, and most recently he was named the 2021 Butkus Award winner given to the league's top linebacker.
Parsons has is expected to be named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and has a real shot at winning Defensive Player of the Year also, but what he'll remember most about his first year in the NFL is the Cowboys season ending prematurely against the San Francisco 49ers.
“I’m going to remember that we lost in the first round,” Parsons said at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas last week, via ESPN’s Kimberley A. Martin.
The young lion went on the talk about what he and his teammates look to achieve in 2022 and how they were not satisfied with playing just one addition game after the regular season.
“The expectation is to make it back to the game, get back into the dance, get back into the playoffs, and go way further than we did this year,” said Parsons. “The standard, I think, you know, people had us not even making it so something people were good with that but none of us was ok with the way we went out.”
Parsons has only scratched the surface of what he can be as a player, and the better he gets the better chance there is that the Cowboys' defense can continue to improve for the foreseeable future.