When it comes to rookies in the National Football League there is often a bit of caution as far as putting too much on their plates too soon. Just take a look at how incoming quarterbacks get treated, granted that is an insanely difficult position to learn at the professional level. Even someone like Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence is spoken about by his coaches as someone who has to “earn the job” and other ‘coach speak’ when we all know that things are simply a matter of time.
It doesn’t seem like Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is dancing around the obvious when it comes to his team’s first-round pick. Linebacker Micah Parsons is someone that the team has been hyping up for a while now, but do we actually think they are going to utilize him from the very beginning?
According to Mike McCarthy, it seems like this is the case. Speaking with Peter King he noted that it is important for Parsons to play right away.
When I met with coach Mike McCarthy, I was surprised at one thing he talked about in our 30 minutes. McCarthy is a traditional coach. Players have to prove their worth, and though he’s not against playing rookies, he has to see them perform consistently well. So when I asked about Parsons, his answer surprised me.
“He needs to play opening day,” McCarthy said. “You have to trust what your eyes are telling you. And when I watch him, I see a fluid and explosive player. This game’s not too big for him. Some guys run 4.3. Some guys play 4.3. He’s the kind of guy who plays fast. He looks like he’s done this at this level before.”
Interesting, because Parsons opted out of his final season at Penn State. He sounds like he’s making up for lost time, so happy to be back on a football field. “Last year was pretty long and dreadful,” he said. “That’s why I’m really excited to be out here this year.”
Parsons has been impressive throughout camp and has shown the level of athleticism that many got excited over throughout his college career. It is definitely notable that McCarthy is as high as he is on the linebacker given that Parsons has not played competitive football since the 2019 season ended, but you have to trust what you see at a certain point.
Part of what makes it so obvious for Parsons to play right away is his versatility. He is someone whom the Cowboys can use in a variety of ways given his overall skillset. Getting him to play on day one simply means getting him involved. That’s a very smart idea.
Dallas has an interesting and deep linebacker group. Holdovers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will find roles in new coordinator Dan Quinn’s hybrid D—it can morph from 4-3 to 3-4 because of some versatile pieces at linebacker—while former physical safety Keanu Neal comes over from Atlanta, when he played under Quinn, and he’ll be a solid run player. It’s early, but look for Parsons to be a strong contender to be an every-down sideline-to-sideline player. “I’m gonna blitz, I’m gonna go sideline to sideline, I’m gonna drop,” he told me. He could be a classic middle linebacker at 248 pounds, with the added benefit of quickness to chase down plays. Dallas wanted the kind of playmaking Fred Warner/Bobby Wagner-type ‘backer, and they’re going to give Parsons the chance to be him.
Perhaps the most exciting element to Parsons’ game is how he is going to influence the pass rush. The Cowboys have talked so much about wanting to generate more turnovers, and while dropping back in coverage is a safe and smart thing at times, getting in the quarterback’s face and directly impacting things up front is the quickest path to victory.
Hopefully Parsons does wind up like Fred Warner or Bobby Wagner, that is after all what the Cowboys drafted him hoping he would be. The journey starts day one though and it seems like that truly could be the case for number 11.