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Cowboys News: The lion, Micah Parsons, is still hungry for football

Your Wednesday edition of news on America’s Team.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Micah Parsons, the lion at the heart of the Cowboys defense, is still hungry - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News

The rookie linebacker has been better than anyone could have imagined this season.

A lion can learn from a Black Mamba. “Just the standards I have for myself,” Parsons said in a recent phone interview. “I was having an OK season, but I wasn’t separating myself from other guys in the league. I said, ‘If I’m really going to do this thing, I’ve got to separate myself and do something else.’”

In the football jungle, Parsons is a rare breed, providing the Cowboys incomparable versatility on their path to the playoffs. There is much he has done and yet still more left to do. His focus is on the latter, the next chapter coming Sunday in the wild-card round against the San Francisco 49ers. Parsons played his best football in the 10 games after the bye, often waking up at 5 a.m. to train and do more preventative body maintenance. He missed Saturday’s regular-season finale to COVID-19 but will resume practice as early as Wednesday.

It is difficult to convey Parsons’ full impact as a rookie. Traditional statistics capture only so much. Even his position, linebacker, is too simplistic and antiquated, not encapsulating all his alignments and roles. The former Penn State Nittany Lion, who registered “the lion is always hungry” as a trademark in December, chuckled at a suggestion for his position name: lionbacker.

Dan Quinn, Kyle Shanahan Reunite As Adversaries - David Helman, DallasCowboys.com

The two former Falcons coaches match up as adversaries on Sunday.

It doesn't feel all that long ago that Quinn was the head coach of the Falcons, having hired Shanahan away from the Cleveland Browns to be his offensive coordinator. In the world of pro football it might as well be an eternity. Shanahan is at the tail end of his fifth season as San Francisco's head coach, with this year marking his second trip to the playoffs. Quinn joined the Cowboys a year ago after being dismissed in Atlanta – and has already reinvented himself into one of the hottest commodities among NFL assistants.

"It is one of the coolest parts about coaching, because the changes that keep happening. And so the learning never stops," Quinn said. That seems to be the case for both of these coaches, who are at the center of this game's most intriguing matchup – the league's fifth-most efficient offense against its second-most efficient defense. And yet, for both of their sterling reputations, both Quinn and Shanahan are proving just how adaptable and versatile they are.

Shanahan's track record speaks for itself. As Quinn noted, he became a known name in the NFL a decade ago when he helped to light the league on fire by playing to Robert Griffin III's athletic ability in Washington. Under Quinn a few years later, he helped the Falcons reach a Super Bowl by playing to the strengths of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Film room: Why Cowboys will have hands full on both sides of the ball vs. 49ers - Nick Kehoe, Dallas Morning News

Taking a deep dive into the 49ers.

Garoppolo’s ups and downs. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has had a strong second half of the season, completing over 70% of his passes for more than nine yards per pass attempt in his last eight games. Both of those numbers are extremely good. And while we’ve seen Garoppolo come through in times where the 49ers are in obvious passing situations (See Week 18 vs the Rams), San Francisco would prefer he be a complement to their running game. Shanahan likes to utilize a healthy dose of play-action passes that work off of his well-conceived running game, utilizing motion, misdirection, guard-pulls, tendency breakers, etc.:

Garoppolo is more than capable of operating Shanahan’s offense at a high level. His big issue, though, is that he’ll force passes. Every game he gives the defense multiple opportunities to come down with an interception:

Chicago Bears request permission to speak to Dan Quinn about head coach position - Dave Halprin, Blogging The Boys

Unfortunately, it seems Dan Quinn is as good as gone.

As has been previously reported, both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Denver Broncos have asked for permission to speak with Quinn about their head coaching positions. For the record, those teams also asked to speak to Moore. Quinn declined to interview with the Jaguars while the Cowboys are still playing, but Moore went head and interviewed with them.

The Broncos are reportedly seriously interested in Quinn and he appears to be among the favorites to land that position. At this time, we don’t know the status of any prospective interviews with the Broncos. Now a third team is getting in on the requests for Quinn. The Chicago Bears have reportedly asked permission to speak to Quinn about their head coach opening.

PFF grades from Week 18 yield encouraging results for Cowboys rookie defender - Jerry Trotta, The Landry Hat

The rookie corner showed some promising signs against the Eagles.

The most impressive aspect of Joseph’s performance is that he rebounded after leaving an interception on the board in the first quarter. He made a great play to jump an out route near the sidelines, but the ball grazed off his fingertips and into Devonta Smith’s arms for a first down. After that lapse in concentration, though, Joseph reminded everyone why the Cowboys drafted him with the No. 44 overall pick.

According to PFF, the first-year corner led the way with seven tackles. Known for his prowess in coverage, Joseph was arguably Dallas’ most impactful defender against the run. Take this play for example when he seals the edge on a handoff to Jalen Reagor to force a third and long. The Eagles wound up punting on this possession.

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