What’s behind Cowboys rookie Micah Parsons’ rise? ‘I’m hungry for myself after being great’

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FRISCO, Texas – The match between Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys has been almost perfect so far.

Rookie linebacker (or defensive end, depending on the moment) loves the spotlight, and few teams in the NFL get more attention than the Cowboys, good or bad.

Thursday night at Caesar’s Superdome against the New Orleans Saints (20:20 ET, Fox / NFL Network), the bright lights will find Parsons.

“I mean, let my eyes be on me,” Parsons said. “It’s not going to change my preparation, it’s not going to change anything I did because I was already ready for the moment. Some people are born for it. I think I was born for it and I came just to play like that. “

Playing for the Cowboys can be overwhelming because of the attention. On and off the court, each move is dissected. Some players can handle the pressure. Others wither with sensitivity. Parsons, who was the overall number 12 in the 2021 draft, has blossomed.

Coach Mike McCarthy said the club has a breakdown in scouting reports to determine if the draftees can handle the hardships of playing for the Cowboys.

“It’s very different to work for the Dallas Cowboys,” said McCarthy, who has been with the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Saints and Kansas City Chiefs in his NFL career. “It’s a spotlight like no other.”

Parsons is not just a product of the hype that can turn some cowboys into famous names before they ever really achieve anything. His production, especially since the farewell week (36 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles in the last five games), comes after adding more to his preparation after what he thought were too many subpar moments.

On the morning of the first training session after the farewell on October 24, Defense Coordinator Dan Quinn entered The Star – the Cowboys’ headquarters and training facility – around noon. 06.00. He saw Parsons, who would normally arrive around noon. 7, just behind him.

“I said, ‘What are we doing here?'” Quinn said. “He said, ‘I change some things.'”

Parsons used the extra time to get more treatment, study opponents more and train.

“I did not think I was going to change anything. I had to find something all alone,” Parsons said. “It’s something I had to do on my own. No one forced me to do it. I had to do it because every week I challenge myself to go out there and be amazing and find a way to influence the game whether it’s in the end or linebacker.And I feel it should not matter where I am.I have to find a way to make money, you know what I mean? And help my keep winning. So I’m hungry for myself to be great. “

The results have been noticeable.

In the first game after saying goodbye to the Minnesota Vikings, he had four tackles for loss, one season high. A week later in a loss to the Denver Broncos, he had seven tackles and 2.5 sacks. He got another layoff and another tackle for the loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

He had two more sacks and a forced fumble against the Chiefs. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, he finished with 12 pressure, a draw for most of any player in the last five seasons, bringing in Nick Bosa and JJ Watt, who had similar 12-pressure matches in 2019.

In overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving, he had a tackle for losses and a sack in consecutive games, but a pass interference penalty on third and 18th kept the Raiders’ game-winning drive alive.

“Micah kept playing great games for us in great moments,” Quinn said. “And so we count on him for that.”

“I feel like I should shine in that moment,” Parsons said. “I wanted to be in that moment. I wanted to make the play. I wanted it on my back. I do not want to shy away from it. These are the moments I live for because those are the moments you will remember forever.”

Parsons has 67 tackles and 9.0 sacks and is on pace for 103.5 tackles and 14 sacks. While he will play a season of 17 games, the last player to hit both marks in a season was Buffalo Bills Hall of Famer Bruce Smith in 1993. Parsons is the 12th rookie since 1999 to have at least nine sacks and 15 tackles for losses in one season and the only rookie defender with more through 11 games was Von Miller, who had 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for losses in 2011 for Denver.

“What stands out to me is his handling, highly developed in terms of his technique, using counter-pulling to win, and then you see his high-level pull,” said former NFL safety Matt Bowen, who is analyst on ESPN’s NFL Matchup show. “A lot of guys have high-level character traits. They’s explosive, but they can not come home to the quarterback because they can not make that separation. With Micah Parsons, you see it, and then you go to his high-level qualities. His ability to that bending is ridiculous. He has the short speed, which is much more important than the long speed for pass-rushers. And when he then closes, you are done. “

Parsons ‘9.0 sacks are a team rookie record that breaks the mark DeMarcus Ware had in 2005, but equals Willie Townes (1966) and Harvey Martin (1973) before sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Parsons’ 15 tackles for loss are most of a Dallas defender since Sean Lee had 13 in 2017. His 6.5 sacks in the month of November are a draw to the second most in a single month in the team’s history. Ware had seven in October 2011.

“I’ve jumped off the band for you,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I think lately in the end position he’s impressive when he rushes. Of course when he plays as a linebacker in the same way. I do think, though, that when he gets on the tackles and rushes, he’s a handful “You see in different matches where he is playing in different places. It is clear that he fits well into their system.”

Parsons is the only player to rank among the top 15 in pass rush win rate and run stop win rate this year among 109 players with at least 100 pass rushes and 100 run stop games, according to ESPN Metrics / NFL Next Gen Stats.

Defensive Rookie of the Year seems to be secured at the moment. What about this year’s defender? New York Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor (1981) is the only rookie to have won the award.

Some of it will depend on whether the Cowboys can get out of their current funk after losing three of four. Some of it will depend on how the rest of the current candidates, like the Los Angeles Rams ‘Aaron Donald, the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett, the New England Patriots ‘Matthew Judon and potentially the Cowboys’ teammate Trevon Diggs, who leads the NFL in interceptions. , fare in the last six weeks.

Most will depend on how Parsons performs, especially as the games get bigger.

“I think he can because of the production,” Bowen said. “And what do you see on top of that now, if [you] had a discussion with someone and asked, ‘Who is the best edge rusher?’ and many people will say Myles Garrett, and I agree. But if you take Myles Garrett out, is Micah Parsons the next one? I think that is a valid argument. “

After the Saints’ game, the Cowboys have another primetime game, 26. December against the Washington Football Team. One week later, the NFC-leading Arizona Cardinals play in a game that could decide playoff seeding.

As the games become more important, more attention will be given to Parsons. It’s fine with him.

“In the end, it’s just football,” Parsons said. “It’s something I’ve done all my life and people have seen me play football all my life. It’s just a few extra eyes.”

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