For two seasons, Micah Parsons terrorized quarterbacks every Saturday afternoon as the leader of Penn State. Now, he expects to do the same with the Dallas Cowboys.
The addition of Parsons strengthen the defensive front for Dan Quinn after a lost season with Mike Nolan. Last year, both Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith were hampered with injuries and inconsistent play.
Can Parsons find a way to dethrone one of the two and be a starter right away? Former Penn State linebackers Cam Brown and Jason Cabinda - both now NFL contemporaries of Parsons - think so.
“I know he’s a worker. He’s as versatile a player as I’ve seen," said Brown, who plays for the Giants, on Fansided's The Matt Lombardo Show.
First-round pick Parsons was herald during the draft process for being one of the most versatile chess pieces in the class. In today's game, many linebackers are known for their coverage skills. Parsons can do that - and more.
Parsons thrives when asked to blitz. In the final two seasons with the Nittany Lions, he recorded 6.5 sacks and 18 tackles for losses.
Said Brown: "I’ve seen him pass-rush from Day 1, I’ve seen him beat offensive linemen, beat pulling blocks, seen him smash people at the line, he can really do a lot. I’m happy to see his growth and what Dallas can do with him behind that defensive line.”
Quinn used the offseason and OTAs to better prepare Parsons for his new role. During camp, he lined up all over the field, including at defensive end for pass rush.
This comes at little surprise after Quinn's work in Atlanta. During his second season, Vic Beasley was asked to play more of a designated pass rusher role from the linebacker position. In his first season at the position, he led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and picked up an All-Pro nod in the process.
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Dallas will be looking to bolster its pass-rush in any way possible. Last season, DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory led the way with a combined 15 of the 31 sacks. Lawrence played hurt. Smith is no longer with the team. Gregory wasn't allowed to play enough and has a chance to explode this year.
Parsons still will be asked to play linebacker along with his DPR role. Cabinda, who plays for the Lions, thinks having a "teacher''/teammate like Vander Esch will play a vital role in mold his future as one of the games more complete players.
Smith's aggressive tackling also should help Parsons become the next triple-digit tackler for the Cowboys' front seven.
"Leighton is a guy who came into the league and really his name was one that kept being called game, after game, because he was making a whole lot of plays, especially early in his career," Cabinda said. "From that experience standpoint and Jaylon Smith being there, as well, I’m sure there’s a whole lot from a scheme standpoint that they can catch Micah up on really quickly."
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Parsons' role in 2021 could be limited to adding pressure to the backfield. It also could expand to a more three-down type role. But at this early stage? Parsons has everything the Cowboys could want in a linebacker.
They don't call Penn State 'Linebacker U' for nothing.
"Micah’s a guy who just is very naturally and instinctually is going to make plays," Cabinda said. "To be able to put him in the right position, to get him thinking the right away in terms of the scheme and where he’s supposed to be, and how fast they can accelerate that for him, is going to determine how much production he’s going to have this year.”
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