After a dramatic 27-20 win over the Washington at FedEx Field in Week 14, the Dallas Cowboys have a three-game lead in the NFC East. Rookie linebacker Micah Parsons has instrumental to the ‘Boys’ success in 2021.
Jerry Jones’ team currently occupies the #4 seed in the NFC playoff race with a 9-4 record, one game behind fellow division leaders Arizona, Green Bay and Tampa Bay, all of whom are 10-3. As vital as Dak Prescott CeeDee Lamb and the offense are in Big D, the attack has faltered a bit in recent week. Thankfully, the first-year phenom out of Penn State University has been on hand to help the defense pick up the slack. Lightning-fast with an incredibly high football IQ, Parsons has wasted no time in establishing himself as one of the NFL’s most feared defensive players.
Let’s crunch the numbers on Parsons’ historic rookie campaign, his awesome impact on ‘America’s Team’, and the prospects of the Cowboys securing a sixth Super Bowl title.
Parsons feasts on WFT
Micah Parsons produced a pair of sacks in the Cowboys’ Week 14 win in the nation’s capital. The first, which forced Washington QB Tyler Heinicke to fumble, resulted in the Cowboys’ second touchdown of the day.
Late in the first quarter, with Dallas leading 11-0, Parsons blitzed through the middle of the Washington offensive line, blowing past All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff, and locked in, at full speed, on Heinicke. Upon impact, Parsons violently separated the ball from the WFT quarterback, and defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong picked up the loose ball for a ‘scoop and score’ that extended the Dallas lead to 18-0.
A second sack came on another blitz early in the second quarter. This time the Washington offensive line let Parsons run free, with running back Antionio Gibson tasked with picking him up. Gibson was not up to that task, and Parsons took Heinicke down again, for his 12th sack of the season.
What they said about Micah Parsons…
NFL experts and former players have waxed lyrical about the rookie sensation’s performances this season:
Most sacks in a player's first 13 career games:
T-1. Julius Peppers: 13.0
T-1. Reggie White: 13.0
3. Leslie O'neal: 12.5
T-4. Micah Parsons: 12.0
T-4. Joey Bosa: 12.0
T-4. Bradley Chubb: 12.0
Over Parsons' last 6 games, he has 33 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 13, 2021
ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates detailed just how impressive Micah Parsons has been over his rookie campaign. “Most sacks in a player’s first 13 career games: T-1. Julius Peppers: 13.0 T-1. Reggie White: 13.0 3. Leslie O’Neal: 12.5 T-4. Micah Parsons: 12.0 T-4. Joey Bosa: 12.0 T-4. Bradley Chubb: 12.0.
“Over Parsons’ last 6 games, he has 33 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.”
"Give [Micah Parsons] the Defensive Player of the Year."
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) December 13, 2021
Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark added: “He’s the best defensive player in the league, if Micah Parsons played the same position as T.J. Watt he’d have 25 sacks, he’d break the record by Michael Strahan (22.5).
— Kim Jones (@KimJonesSports) December 13, 2021
Parsons himself insists the best is yet to come, explaining: “Expectations are high round here, you can start good but it’s always how you finish. We still have a whole bunch of games left and I still needed to finish strong.”
Season so far
- 13 Games Played
- 75 tackles, 203 solo
- 12.0 sacks
- 3 forced fumbles
Parsons has been a revelation for the Cowboys, taking snaps at both linebacker and at defensive end during his rookie campaign.
Through the opening eight weeks of the season, Parsons had contributed a solid 2.5 sacks and 38 tackles. However, his Week 9 outing against the Denver Broncos truly kickstarted his season. The #12 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft doubled his sack tally on the season in that one game, and kicked off a run of six successive games with a sack. The Penn State alumnus has now recorded three multi-sack games this season – against Denver, Kansas City and Washington – and is now just three away from breaking Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record of 14.5. This is astonishing when one considers that Kearse was a defensive end, and Parsons is a linebacker. Parsons has four games left – three of them against struggling NFC East rivals – in which to break that record.
Parsons’ impact on the Dallas defense was immediate and has been sustained, as evidenced by the unit’s awesome improvement from a year ago. In 2020 Dallas ranked #27 in scoring defense, #23 in yardage and #31 in rushing – they have improved to #12 in scoring, remain #23 in yardage and rank #15 in rushing in 2021. In the process, Parsons has almost certainly securing himself Defensive Rookie of the Year, and possibly even the Defensive Player of the Year award.
College: Penn State University
Drafted: #12 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys
Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in May 1999, Parsons initially attended Central Dauphin High School before transferring to Harrisburg High School as both a running back and defensive end.
In his freshman campaign Parsons tallied 121 tackles and 18.5 sacks at Central Dauphin before adding 69 tackles and 13.5 sacks as a Junior at Harrisburg. Then, as a senior, he rushed for 1,239 yards and 27 touchdowns on offense, while contributing 55 tackles and 10.5 sacks on defense. A five-star recruit and a top-10 prospect, Parsons was recruited by virtually every top-tier college program across the country – including Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Ohio State – before ultimately choosing to stay close to home and attend Penn State.
At Penn State, Parsons was moved to middle linebacker, where led the team as a freshman in tackles (82) and contributed 1.5 sacks. A year later, as a sophomore, he recorded 109 tackles, five sacks, 26 quarterback hurries, and forced four fumbles. That campaign earned him the 2019 Butkus-Fitzgerald award, which is awarded each year to college football’s best linebacker. After opting out of the 2020 season due to concerns about COVID-19, Parsons gave up his final year of college eligibility and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, where he was selected 12th overall by the Cowboys.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – 1/66 (-6600) – Bet365
Parsons’ sensational first season in the NFL has pretty much guaranteed that the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award will wind up in his trophy cabinet. That should come as no surprise, as Parsons leads all rookies in sacks (12.0), sack yardage (117 yards) and tackles for loss (17). He is a class apart from the rest of the rookie defensive class.
Defensive Player of the Year – 13/5 (+175) – Bet365
Not only is the Cowboys’ rookie sensation assured the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but he is now also joint favourite, with Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt, to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Leaguewide, Parsons ranks seventh in sacks, second in tackles for loss and is first in sack yardage. If he maintains his pace from the past six weeks, he’ll only miss out on the award if T.J. Watt breaks the NFL sack record, or if his teammate, Trevon Diggs, becomes the first player in over 40 years to records 12+ interceptions in a season (he currently has nine).
Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl odds – 12/1 (+1200) – 888Sport
Dallas certainly has the talent to contend for a Vince Lombardi Trophy this season, and it has already recorded victories over play-off contenders New England and the Los Angeles Chargers.
Defeats by Kansas City and Tampa Bay must be worrisome for owner and GM Jerry Jones – when Dallas has played elite opponents, it has so far come up short. With three of their four remaining games coming against pitiful NFC East opposition, the Cowboys have a decent shot of securing one of the higher seeds in the NFC
A Week 17 game against the Arizona Cardinals will tell us a lot more about the franchise’s play-off chances, but for now Dallas is on the periphery of Super Bowl contention according to the odds.