Don’t look now, but the Dallas Cowboys are again in search of another war daddy pass rusher. Though they narrowly escaped a parting of ways with All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence due to a contractual dispute that was resolved with a new deal altogether, their good fortune didn’t extend to Randy Gregory — who pivoted at the last second to signing with the Denver Broncos due to, well, a contractual dispute. The latter left many wondering if the Cowboys would use former first-round pick Micah Parsons to help salve the wound opposite Lawrence, and the answer is both yes and no.
Yes, the All-Pro linebacker will continue to rush the passer off of the edge but, no, it will not be his full-time gig. Parsons will instead remain primarily a linebacker whose true role can only be described as “weapon,” one head coach Mike McCarthy plans to use in varying ways — as was the case in Parson’s electric rookie season — versus shrinking his abilities to just one role.
“The people that say, ‘Hey, why don’t you play him at defensive end?’,” McCarthy pondered aloud to reporters, via the team’s website. “Very fair. That’s a very fair question. But we’ve made it clear: We want him moving around.”
It’s reasonable for McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to feel this way, because if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. And, what’s more, the name of the game is to keep the opposing offense guessing — i.e., playing a four quarter game of “Where’s Waldo?” as it relates to Parsons — a key reason he was able to dominate the way he did in his first NFL season.
“It would be very easy to just line him up at end and play him there every down,” McCarthy added. “But the fact of the matter is he had, what, 13 sacks. Seven came from the linebacker position, six from the defensive end position. I know as an offensive guy, you’re helping me if you can line him up at one position every time.”
For his part, Parsons is already working on leveling up, and not in one area/role.
“Bro, I can get better everywhere,” Parsons said, speaking from the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl. “I can become a better pass rusher. I can become a better LB. Like, anything. I just feel like I’m just out there raw and I was just learning and I grew and I kept getting better and better throughout the year.
“No one’s ever perfect. There’s always room to grow in many ways to get better.”
Parsons finished the 2021 season with a team-high 13 sacks, 84 combined tackles (64 solo, 20 tackles for loss), three pass break ups and three forced fumbles while very nearly adding an interception or two to his stat line — en route to landing a First Team All-Pro nod, Pro Bowl honors and the award as AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The re-signing of Dorance Armstrong and the acquisition of Dante Fowler will likely combine with a 2022 draft pick in an attempt to replace Gregory, and while Parsons can and will help on-demand, don’t count on him being anything other than what he’s proven himself to be: a weapon.