The Dallas Cowboys have been trying to make some major changes to their offense this offseason. It might seem unusual for a team that finished first in many offensive categories to do that, but here we are. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys didn’t do too much rearranging.
Dan Quinn’s defense last season was among the best the Cowboys have had in quite a while, and they are going into 2022 with largely the same cast of characters. One of those players is the reason Dallas should be a force on defense for a while to come. Micah Parsons established himself among the elite NFL defenders in his rookie season.
Technically a linebacker, the Cowboys were forced to use Parsons as a pass rusher early on in 2022 when DeMarcus Lawrence was injured. That may have turned out to be fortuitous injury in the long run as the Cowboys discovered that Parsons can rush the pass as well as anybody in the league.
So what will he do for an encore after racking up 13 sacks in 2021? ESPN tried to answer that in its second annual sack projections. They use a mixture of stats from the past and projections for the future to make a forecast. Interestingly, while Parsons comes in fifth in projected sacks for 2022, his total from last season is actually projected to go down.
Sacks in 2021: 13.0
Projected sacks in 2022: 10.0
Parsons is trickier to predict due to his one-year career and his unique role as an off-ball linebacker who moonlights as one of the best edge rushers in the league (or maybe it’s the other way around). The big question here is: how often will he rush the passer? The model predicts a slight uptick from pass rushes on 33% of defensive snaps last season. But whether he becomes a full-time pass-rusher or mostly plays linebacker will fundamentally affect his forecast.
Parsons mostly has some outstanding numbers on which to rely, with 13 sacks on just 278 pass rushes a year ago, along with the league’s best PRWR among all players. That produces a very strong projection, even with only one season of production.
To be fair, the projections across the board for ESPN tend to be lower than actual totals for 2021. But Parsons probably will rush more this season, especially with Randy Gregory gone and the fact they brought in Anthony Barr as another linebacker to go with Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox.
That kind of depth at linebacker should allow Parsons to spend more time pursuing quarterbacks instead of tackling running backs or covering tight ends.
The smart money says Parsons equals or betters his sack total from 2021.