Dallas Cowboys Preparing to Unleash Rookie Micah Parsons to Fix Defense’s Biggest Concern

The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t win the dismal NFC East last season, finishing 6–10 and a game behind the Washington Football Team. Yes, the injuries to starting quarterback Dak Prescott and backup Andy Dalton hampered the offense. But even with those setbacks, Dallas finished in the middle of the NFL in scoring and total offense.

There’s a reason Jerry Jones went defense with his first-round pick. Reports from minicamp have new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn already unlocking his new weapon, linebacker Micah Parsons.

The Cowboys surrendered the fifth-most points in the NFL last season (473), were in the bottom 10 in total defense, gave up 34 passing touchdowns (tied for the third-most in the league), and also gave up 20 rushing scores (tied for seventh-most). Pressure on the quarterback was a hit-or-miss proposition for Dallas (mostly miss). With a pressure percentage of 22.8%, the Cowboys were in the bottom half of the league. Their totals of 56 hurries and 31 sacks were in the same range.

Quinn is reportedly using Parsons to increase the heat on the opposing quarterback.

Micah Parsons was a tremendous value at No. 12 overall

The Dallas Cowboys landed Micah Parsons, the top-ranked linebacker in the 2021 draft class, with the 12th overall pick they got from the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded up to No. 10 overall to get wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Parsons opted out of his junior year at Penn State and then declared for the draft, so his last competitive football game was the Nittany Lions’ win over Memphis in December 2019’s Cotton Bowl.

He had 14 tackles for loss as a sophomore and added five sacks, five passes defended, and four forced fumbles. Quinn, who coached the Seattle Seahawks defense to a pair of Super Bowls and a ring before going 43-42 in five-plus seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, is looking for ways to ramp up the Cowboys’ pressure packages.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Parsons has been lining up at the DPR (designated pass-rusher) spot. Quinn has used Parsons at both DPR and middle linebacker thus far. Parsons likes the idea of playing an active role in the pass rush.

“Just creating havoc, creating disruption. Being able to create that excitement, momentum change, a chance to get the ball out and get it back to our explosive offense. That’s kind of what I like about pass rushing.”

Micah Parsons

The Dallas Cowboys can certainly use the help

The Dallas Cowboys are looking at multiple ways to use rookie Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons (11) of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in December 2019. Parsons will call the same stadium home now as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. | Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was the top pass-rusher in 2020 for the Dallas Cowboys, finishing with 6.5 sacks. That was up five in 2019 but far off his Pro Bowl campaigns of 2017 and 2018 when he recorded 14.5 and 10.5, respectively.

Defensive end Aldon Smith, who came back from a four-year suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies, was second on the club with five sacks last season. However, he signed with the Seahawks in free agency.

Getting production from first-round pick Micah Parsons in the pass rush will go a long way toward getting the Cowboys back to the postseason for the first time since 2018. In the longer term, of course, Dallas is hoping Parsons is a crucial piece to a defense that gets Dallas back to true contention. The Cowboys haven’t advanced beyond the divisional round since their last Super Bowl win after the 1995 season.

Parsons brings versatility at linebacker to Dallas

One of the most attractive aspects to Micah Parsons is his ability to go inside or outside at the linebacker positions. He will need to clean up some elements of his game, but that is true of just about every young player coming into the NFL.

According to the predraft scouting report from Lance Zierlein at NFL.com, Parsons can get too eager at times and run himself out of plays, but that and the ability to be patient when smelling out offensive plays will come with experience. He’s got explosive speed, and his willingness to take on a pass-rushing role bodes well for a Dallas pass defense that ranked a dismal 27th in third-down completion percentage.

More stops almost always equal more victories. It’s a solid theory to start from as Dallas looks to rebound from a couple of underwhelming seasons.

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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