Linebacker Micah Parsons was labeled by many as the best defensive player in the 2021 NFL Draft. Although the Dallas Cowboys were focused on the cornerback position in the first round, they didn’t hesitate when they traded back from 10th pick to 12th pick to take Parsons as their first of six consecutive picks on defense.
16 games into his inaugural NFL campaign, Parsons has taken the league by storm and has shown that he’s much more than a typical off-the-ball linebacker. He’s a swiss army knife and the centerpiece to what the Cowboys do defensively with all the different ways Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn uses him to make plays, and Parsons revels in that role.
“I take complete pride in being the most versatile player in the NFL,” said Parsons.
Parsons has been all over the Cowboys’ defense making an impact. He has taken over 400 snaps at linebacker, over 300 as a defensive lineman, nearly 30 at cornerback, and has lined up at safety as well.
There’s not a single player on defense in the NFL that can do all the things Parsons does and he gives Quinn so many options when it comes to creating ways for him and other players on the Cowboys’ defense to be in the best position to make plays. You tell him to line up somewhere, he’s going to do it, and he’ll enjoy every minute of it.
“I just like lining up everywhere and just being dynamic,” Parsons said. “It’s almost like at recess for me. I feel like I’m a kid out there, like I’m going to go tackle my buddy. It’s a whole bunch of fun for me. I just really enjoy it.”
When Parsons was drafted the concern was that Quinn wouldn’t take advantage of the unreal skill set that he possesses by utilizing him solely as a linebacker. However, once he took the field for the first time Quinn quickly saw the potential a revamped Cowboys’ defense could have with Parsons as the focal point and putting him in multiple areas to disrupt offenses.
“I just do a lot of very different things on defense that change the game,” Parsons said. “I never play just one position. I feel like, if I could just rush, I might be a 18-20 sack guy, too. And if I just stayed in pass coverage and run, I might be a 100-tackle guy, too.”
The former Penn State Nittany Lion has amassed 84 tackles (20 tackles for loss), 13 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, and three passes defended. Parsons piling up the sack and quarterback hit totals he has would be amazing for any player. However, the fact that he can produce those numbers without being a full-time pass-rusher is mindblowing and speaks to how special of a talent he is.
This level of production has all but secured Parsons being named the Defensive Rookie of the Year and has him as one of the leading candidates for Defensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, Parsons tested positive for COVID on Wednesday and will likely miss the Cowboys season finale on Saturday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Coupling that with T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers having a four-sack performance against the Cleveland Browns in Week 17, Parsons will have a hard time getting that particular honor.
When asked about the possibility of being named the NFL’s top defensive player Parsons didn’t hesitate to put his name with the best in the business but acknowledged that his teammates have helped when it comes to him making the plays that he has made.
“I would put myself up there with the elite guys around the league in terms of impacting the game,” Parsons said. “It definitely hasn’t been a one-man job. I would say the DBs help me a lot to hold the receivers that way I can get the pressure and the sack.”
Parsons is vaccinated and is fully expected to be back when the Cowboys host a home playoff game in the wild-card round. Regarding who the opponent is, they won’t make it past AT&T Stadium if Parsons takes over the game like he’s capable of.