‘You get to be a Rambo player’: Cowboys first-round rookie Micah Parsons offers clarity on his role
FRISCO, Texas — During the first rep of sled work, Micah Parsons says, he shook the rust off. Then?
“The second rep felt like: ‘OK, I'm back now,’” the Cowboys’ first-round draft selection said Friday afternoon. “That is how it is. We just wipe the dust off and act like it was brand new.”
As Parsons transitions to the Cowboys, his first organized team football practice in 17 months isn’t the only glimpse of new.
The Cowboys planned to prioritize cornerback with their top choice in the 2021 NFL draft until their desired prospects went off the board earlier than anticipated. Instead, Dallas traded down from pick 10 to 12 and landed a player the team felt filled less of a pressing need—but offered even more athleticism and skill, management said. Parsons, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy and owner Jerry Jones all have emphasized the Penn State product’s pass-rush ability. And yet, coaches’ vision for Parsons extends beyond the third-down blitzes they are drawing up.
Joining a linebacker room with fifth-year pro Jaylon Smith and 2018 first-rounder Leighton Vander Esch, Parsons is preparing to line up first and second downs as the middle linebacker.
“I'm just coordinating and being a dominant force,” Parsons said of the designation. “They wouldn't put me there if they didn't have a need at Mike. Mike linebacker, you get the chance to be a force. You get to be a Rambo player. You get to match up on running backs.
“Great chance to play in the box, and I think that is what I do best.”
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Cowboys LB Micah Parsons at rookie minicamp today
(📸: Dallas Cowboys) pic.twitter.com/bEYjW73cSs
Parsons’ college skill set was versatile. Though he played just two seasons at Penn State before opting out of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 All-American prided himself on the versatility to travel sideline to sideline and wreck a pocket. He collected 109 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles in 26 games (13 starts).
The Cowboys’ duo of Smith and Vander Esch excelled in 2018 before struggling to fit runs and plug gaps in 2019. Dallas’ 2020 defensive staff proposed a fix: Slide Smith to weakside linebacker and designate Vander Esch the de facto defensive quarterback at middle linebacker. Then Vander Esch broke his collarbone during the season opener. The headset returned to Smith’s helmet. The Cowboys, due to a multitude of schematic issues and talent deficiencies, allowed 158.8 rushing yards (second worst in league) and 29.6 points (fourth worst) per game. More change awaits with Dan Quinn taking over for Mike Nolan as coordinator.
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