When the Cowboys selected Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick in the draft, the move was not without its criticisms. In the interest of transparency, I was one of the more vocal critics of the pick. There were plenty of reasons to be critical. Even without considering his off-the-field baggage, Parsons played one of the most expendable positions on defense, making the value of taking any off-ball linebacker that high questionable at best.
More than that, Parsons’ profile was that of a linebacker who thrives in blitz-heavy schemes and gives him less responsibilities in pass coverage. The coverage issues lowered his value in any scheme given that the NFL is becoming more pass-happy each year, and being drafted to a team whose new defensive coordinator rarely blitzes made the team fit seem poor right off the bat. All of this, coupled with the later revelation that Mike McCarthy hadn’t even been present at Parsons’ pre-draft meeting, seemed to spell big trouble for the newest Cowboy.
But give credit where credit is due: Parsons has been shutting down those criticisms left and right all summer, and his start to training camp thus far has furthered that sentiment. By all accounts, Parsons has been one of the biggest stars of training camp thus far. Even before players put the pads on, Parsons was seemingly everywhere during team drills, frequently flashing and making an impact.
Cowboys rookie LB Micah Parsons nearly nabs interception while in zone coverage. pic.twitter.com/1eQVRhQ7om— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) July 25, 2021
And to give more credit where due, Dan Quinn has reportedly stayed true to his word to make sure Parsons sees use in a variety of ways. Back in rookie camp, Parsons admitted that he saw most of his work at MIKE, but training camp has seen Parsons playing multiple linebacker spots, coming off the edge as a rusher, dropping like a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker would, and even getting some work in coverage. While he hasn’t been completely perfect, Parsons has been darn near close, and already looks more comfortable in coverage than he ever did at Penn State.
Parsons’ impressive play in training camp has caught everyone’s eyes, especially McCarthy’s, who seemingly confirmed Parsons’ role as a starter:
“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.”
It’s also worth noting that Parsons has been doing this against an offense that, when healthy, has performed as one of the best units in the NFL the last two years. Even with Dak Prescott sitting out, Parsons is being matched up against the likes of Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Ezekiel Elliott, and Tony Pollard and still doing all of this. And when Quinn uses him as a rusher, Parsons is facing off against Tyron Smith.
But the next step is coming for Parsons, and it takes the form of the Cowboys’ preseason schedule. It’s unclear just how much Parsons will play, but he’ll have an opportunity to continue building on the stellar offseason he’s been having. But for the time being, Parsons can at least take solace in knowing that he’s just about silenced many of his draft-day doubters.