DALLAS — When NFL fans think of great linebackers currently in the game, players such as Roquan Smith, Darius Leonard and Bobby Wagner come to mind.
Start thinking about Micah Parsons.
The Dallas Cowboys' 2021 first-round pick topped CBS Sports' recent top-10 linebackers list. According to Jordan Dajani, part of the trouble with ranking Parsons stemmed from whether not the Penn State product should be included on the list. Conventional linebackers don't exactly tally 13.0 sacks and 30 quarterback hits.
"We thought about if Parsons should even be included in this list since he played a fair amount of pass-rusher last season, but the bottom line is that Parsons is a great linebacker who can wear several different hats on defense," Dajani writes. "Parsons is versatile, smart and instinctive. You don't do what he did in his rookie season if you aren't a star. NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler."
Yet, to help make his case, Dajani included a graphic from Eric Eager from Pro Football Focus that told the tale of how Parsons is much more than an edge rusher.
The greatness of Parsons lies in his versatility. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is able to use Parsons wherever he can make the most impact. If the Cowboys need a boost at pass rusher, Parsons is able to blitz and generate pressure. If the Cowboys need help in coverage, Parsons has the ability to drop back and make quarterbacks think twice about floating passes in the general vicinity of No. 11.
During last month's organized team activities and throughout the Cowboys' offseason program, coach Mike McCarthy worked with Quinn on keeping Parsons versatile.
"I have news for you: he’ll be declared a big," McCarthy told reporters on June 2 at The Star. "I don’t think anybody is going to be declaring him a small or whatever your lingo is. That’s what this league is and that’s the beauty of competing in this league is he’s going to see more challenges whether he’s inside, outside. He’ll definitely be targeted in protection schemes.”
The more that the Cowboys are able to keep Parsons floating between position groups or levels of the defense, the more he can stay atop the list of elite linebackers in the league. One of the challenges that the Cowboys are working to solve in 2022 is creating opportunities for Parsons to make plays despite every offensive coordinator in the NFL knowing the second-year defender will be a factor on game days.
Do you think Micah Parsons will make a run at the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in his sophomore season? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.