Micah Parsons is more gifted than a Christmas tree inside a Highland Park mansion. The Dallas Cowboys’ 2021 first-round pick earned a unanimous NFL Defensive Rookie Player of the Year honor as he tallied 84 combined tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hits, 13.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three pass breakups through 16 games.
While Parsons is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s pet project, the 6-3, 245-pound linebacker may benefit from having Mike McCarthy as his head coach.
We discussed this idea in greater detail on the latest episode of Hidden Yardage on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
McCarthy worked with another dominant young edge rusher while with the Green Bay Packers. In 2009, the Packers, who had hired Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator, drafted linebacker Clay Matthews in Round 1. The former USC Trojan earned a Pro Bowl selection as he gathered 51 combined tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 21 quarterback hits, a forced fumble, three fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown, and seven pass breakups through 16 games.
Matthews tapped into his potential, but he still had a ways to go, and the Packers had to get it out of him.
McCarthy explained after organized team activities on June 9 at The Star how Green Bay moved around Matthews so offenses couldn’t get a feel for where to aim their protections.
“My first experience was Clay Matthews because Clay always lined up on the left, and as an offensive play-caller, it’s a lot easier to call that help protection when you know where the guy is every time. So, the fact of the matter is when you move him back, he plays the off 11, he’s on different sides, and we even went as far as playing Clay at technically the nickel position conceptually just to keep creating targeting problems for him.”
The movement worked. Matthews had a career year in 2010 with 13.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, 25 quarterback hits, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and an interception, which was returned for six. Matthews earned his only career first-team All-Pro and another one of his six career Pro Bowl selections.
Oh, and the Packers won Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium that year, too.
Dallas has the same ideas for Parsons, according to McCarthy.
“It’s about targeting because — trust me — they’re going to know where he’s at. He may be playing the linebacker position, but I would think most offensive protection schemes will declare him as a big, as a rusher, and we’re aware of all of that. We’re just trying to create opportunities that do travel and keep the 4-on-3 and the 3-on-2 at all time. We’re creating two really good 1-on-1s on the backside of that.”
The team could have checked the box that Parsons can rush off a certain side and moved along. McCarthy recognizes that the key to the Cowboys taking the next step is keeping Parsons dynamic and variable, and not allowing offenses to key in on where he is rushing from.