For the first time all season it’s starting to look as if the Dallas Cowboys defense will be as close to full strength as it has been at any point this year. With the return of DeMarcus Lawrence last week, and the expected return of Neville Gallimore and Randy Gregory this week, the Dallas defense could look a little different from here on out.
Cowboys’ defense could look like this at times Sunday at Washington— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 6, 2021
DE: DeMarcus Lawrence
DT: Neville Gallimore
DT: Osa Odighizuwa
DE: Randy Gregory
LB: Micah Parsons
LB: Leighton Vander Esch
CB: Trevon Diggs
CB: Anthony Brown
CB: Jourdan Lewis
S: Jayron Kearse
S: Damontae Kazee
With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory back as a starting defensive ends, and Micah Parsons back at linebacker, this is pretty much what Dan Quinn had envisioned as being his starting defense before unfortunate injuries changed things. This is actually really good news for the Cowboys, however, things have changed a little bit from then to now.
No one in their right mind would of ever predicted how impactful and versatile Micah Parsons would be in his first year in the league with the Cowboys. His ability to play defensive end or off-ball linebacker at an extremely high level has been invaluable this year. So much so, he’s surprisingly leading the team in quarterbacks sacks so far this year and should be the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
If individual statistics were the goal every season sticking with Micah Parsons at defensive end despite the return of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory would be a no-brainer. With nine QB sacks under his belt already, he could easily at least add another three or four sacks this year before all is said and done. But, what’s best for him might not be what’s best for the overall defense.
There’s no denying No. 11 is a dynamic pass rusher who consistently finds a way to put pressure on the opposing QB. But, because he’s such a unique chess piece he could provide more value as an off-ball linebacker with Lawrence and Gregory now back in action. That could be especially true heading into Week 14 against the Washington Football Team.
Now that Dan Quinn has his starting defensive ends back, he is free to use Parsons in a variety of different ways to take advantage of different matchups. That could be exactly what he has in mind for his stud rookie linebacker this week as it pertains to how he plans to neutralize Anthony Gibson, who terrorized the Cowboys on the ground last year.
You may or may not know, but Anthony Gibson had exactly two 100+ rushing yard games last year as a rookie with the Football Team. He ran for 128 yards on 20 carries in Week 7 and 115 yards on 20 carries in Week 12, both against the Cowboys a season ago. Suffice to say, the Dallas run defense didn’t have an answer for him last season, and with the way teams have been running the ball against them lately, they may not have an answer for him this year either.
That, of course, could depend on Parsons. Depending on how Quinn decides to deploy his talented rookie linebacker, Parsons could be the one tasked to contain Washington’s talented running back. It may be on a down-to-down basis considering No. 11 probably won’t be pigeonholed to just one position, but it’s that kind of versatility the Cowboys defense should benefit from immensely.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how Parsons is utilized moving forward now that the Cowboys defense is back to full strength. With so many important games coming up before the regular season ends, these reinforcements probably couldn’t have come at a better time. Hopefully, it will allow them to make a strong push deep into the playoffs. And, wherever Parsons plays, he will no doubt be a big part of that success.