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Micah Parsons tabbed as front-runner for NFL Defensive Player of the Year

In one of the least surprising predictions, Micah Parsons is on track to win the big defensive award in the NFL.

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Each week is much the same for the Dallas Cowboys in one respect. Micah Parsons receives the lion’s share of praise for the team’s game. Obviously there are other heroes that step up from week to week. Dak Prescott and Tony Pollard planted their flags last game. At other times, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong and Ezekiel Elliott have had stellar games. Then there are the rookies who flash here and there. But for consistent dominance, you go to Parsons.

After winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award last year, Parsons is eyeing a bigger prize this year. To be clear, he is not actively pursuing the award, but by being a total game-changing wrecking-ball on defense, he is in line to win Defensive Player of the Year.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, who does incredibly detailed breakdowns of all sorts of NFL stuff, posted his midseason award leaders in each of the major categories. And yes, he has Parsons as the defensive leader, mainly built around how Parsons does everything so well.

The standard for so long in this category had been Aaron Donald. Parsons is becoming the new Donald.

1. Micah Parsons, EDGE, Cowboys

Outside of [Aaron] Donald, I’m not sure any defensive player scares opposing teams more than Parsons. You can understand why. The raw numbers are great, as his eight sacks and 14 quarterback knockdowns rank among the league leaders. Parsons also has nine tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and the fumble recovery he took to the house against the Bears in Week 8. That alone would be enough to get Parsons in the discussion.

The advanced metrics make a case that Parsons is even more valuable. He leads the league with 36 pressures. Among the guys with at least 15 pressures, the only player who creates their average pressure as quickly as Parsons is Donald, who isn’t supposed to be on a level with anybody else. Parsons also is coming from around the edge more often than Donald, which makes that comparison even more impressive.

Nobody has a better pass rush win rate on the edge (32.4%) or against single-teams (42.7%) than Parsons, who typically draws double-teams, chips or offensive lines slid in his direction. This creates opportunities for other pass-rushers. Parsons has managed to make a difference on plays where he doesn’t get home, as the 18 incompletions he’s forced are second in the league behind [Trey] Hendrickson. I started this analysis thinking Parsons was in the mix at edge rusher, but after a closer look, I don’t think anybody is making more of an impact in as wide of a variety of ways.

That just about sums up what we already know about Parsons. The one thing missing from Barnwell’s analysis is Parsons habit of hustling and making game-changing plays that no one should be making.

Here are two plays from the Lions’ game where Parsons just refuses to stop running. The second one was huge as he stopped a touchdown and the Lions fumbled on the next play.

On this one from the Bears game, make sure to keep an eye on Parsons rushing the passer and getting double-teamed. Yet he somehow makes it downfield to recover the fumble and return it for a touchdown.

Barnwell is correct in all of his assessment of the stats. But the hustle, and the insane speed Parsons displays is what makes him other-worldly.

There is also another story for the Cowboys in Barnwell’s article. Parsons is his leading candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award, in second is Nick Bosa, and rounding out the top three is Patrick Surtain II.

We all remember a few years ago before the draft that either Surtain or Jaycee Horn were the odds-on pick for the Cowboys in the draft. Dallas needed a cornerback and those two were the top prospects. The Panthers took Jaycee Horn at eight, and the Broncos took Surtain at nine. Those picks completely changed the Cowboys franchise.

Dallas traded out of the tenth spot and dropped down to 12, where they “settled” for consolation prize Micah Parsons. Getting Surtain would certainly have helped Dallas, pairing him with Trevon Diggs would have made for an incredible secondary.

But really, would anybody trade Parsons for any defensive player right now?

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