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Rookie LB Micah Parsons Helping Cowboys Build New Identity on Defense

When the Cowboys spent a pick at for the second time in three seasons, it was a clear sign they need to improve at the position to revamp 's . Twelfth overall pick has been more than just a standard linebacker for the Cowboys defense so far in , playing some as a pass rusher while coming away with an interception return for a touchdown on Thursday.

Parsons has played alongside , one of the linebackers put on notice along with when the team drafted not only Parsons but Jabrill Cox. Regardless of their role on the field, Vander Esch and Smith provide something the Cowboys simply lack elsewhere on defense – a veteran presence with at least some proven production.

This adds to the intrigue of building around a new player like Parsons, who by all reports is impressing Cowboys veterans and coaches alike in his first practices.

With the Cowboys working into his first full with the team, their hope is to have a weakside that won't have to come off the field much. Parsons getting snaps at the DPR/SAM position would mean he's rushing opposite of Gregory, taking advantage of the attention warrants on the strongside.

Asking too much too soon of Parsons or any of the eight rookies Dallas drafted in another new scheme is a recipe for failure. Adding Parsons at linebacker could be the key to turning around the play of Vander Esch and Smith, with Leighton also intercepting a pass in yesterday's practice.

When Parsons is not going after the , ranging sideline to sideline as a MIKE linebacker is his best trait. If this means Vander Esch is freed up to make plays at WILL or anchor against the run at SAM, the Cowboys will be getting the type of big return they need on this year's top pick.

In Nickel defense, the Cowboys will likely play with two linebackers on the field for the majority of their snaps. With only two spots to work in Parsons, Vander Esch, and Smith, there could easily be an odd man out at LB for the Cowboys.

acquisition is also an added wrinkle to the Cowboys linebacker room, bringing at the position under Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Neal's coverage skills are needed on the second level in today's game, and is something the Cowboys don't have in Smith or any other depth players at LB.

Getting too high or low on any updates from practices before isn't the best way to keep track of the Cowboys progress on defense. What can be gathered is how they plan to deploy a cast of new players.

By putting the focus on Parsons, and seeing how the Cowboys rookie has handled everything thrown at him so far, the team can better plan for not only what this season will look like defensively but their future at linebacker. The Cowboys were linked to Parsons very early in the draft process, with some of this buzz dying down once mocks had first round cornerbacks sliding their way at tenth overall.

Micah Parsons
LB Micah Parsons.

Once was no longer an option at ten, the Cowboys traded down to twelve. Whether or not this was a strong recovery from getting wiped out at their biggest position of need, or a reach that will cause even further setbacks at linebacker, will be determined as Parsons settles into a defined role for his first season.

Sean Martin
Sean Martin
Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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