Regardless of his rookie status, Micah Parsons is arguably the best player on the Dallas Cowboys defense in 2021. The holder of that title for the last few seasons, DeMarcus Lawrence, has missed every game since Week One with a broken foot. The two may finally get to play together again this Thursday in New Orleans and Parsons is excited to get his Pro Bowl teammate back.
Lawrence played in the season opener against Tampa Bay, registering five tackles and a forced fumble, as Dallas nearly upset the Buccaneers. But the defensive end was lost for the next 10 games after breaking his foot in practice a few days later.
Tank's long absence, especially when coinciding with four missed games for DE Randy Gregory, has forced Parsons to do more pass rushing than originally anticipated for the rookie linebacker. But Micah's been up to the challenge and already has nine sacks so far in 2021.
Gregory is technically eligible to return for this week's game against the Saints but isn't expected back until at least Week 14 at Washington. But if the current reports and positive signs prove true, DeMarcus Lawrence will be back on the field for the Cowboys this Thursday night in New Orleans.
After carrying the defensive front for much of the year, Parsons is unsurprisingly thrilled to see Lawrence's return.
Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons on DE DeMarcus Lawrence returning: "He's back. He participated (in practice today). We're all very, very happy to have him back. I can tell he's real hungry."
Micah Parsons on DeMarcus Lawrence: "He's back. He participated [in virtual meetings/walkthrough] … one of the best edge rushers in the NFL … We're all very, very happy to have him back.”
What will Tank's return mean for how Parsons is used? With neither Keanu Neal or Leighton Vander Esch standing out at linebacker, Dallas may deploy Micah more at his original position and entrust pass rushing to Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong.
Given his proven prowess at getting to opposing quarterbacks, Parsons could still line up at DE some on clear passing downs. But as we saw a few weeks ago against the Minnesota Vikings, Micah can be an impact player from his LB spot as well.
Lawrence hasn't been a double-digit sack producer since 2018, often fighting double teams as Dallas' premiere defensive lineman. But his presence helped Robert Quinn get 11.5 sacks in 2019 and allowed Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory to combine for 8.5 sacks last year.
Whether it frees Parsons up to play more linebacker or simply get less attention as a pass rusher, Tank's return can only help his young co-leader in the Cowboys' late-season push.
We've had a bad run lately of expected returns not happening so you can be deservedly dubious that DeMarcus will actually play on Thursday night. We were all disappointed last week that WR CeeDee Lamb missed Thanksgiving, plus not getting OT Tyron Smith back for the Kansas City game despite earlier reports.
Hopefully the same doesn't happen with DeMarcus Lawrence in Week 13. Dallas needs to right the ship after going 1-3 in November and Tank's return may be a huge help.