The Cowboys rookie is doing things that no first-year player has done in nearly two decades.
Down 11-0 at home to an arch-nemesis that guaranteed victory before the game, the Washington Football Team faced a fourth-and-three from the Dallas Cowboys‘ 46 yard line.
As quarterback Taylor Heinecke took the shotgun snap from a five wide receiver empty bunch formation, it became apparent that WFT would be overwhelmed by a menacing blitz ordered up by Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Streaking past the left side of the offensive line was 22-year-old rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, a disruptive force of speed, power and agility. He sacked Heinecke and dislodged the ball, with Doran Armstrong scooping up the fumble and returning it 37 yards for a touchdown.
“Third and fourth down is when you hunt,” Parsons said. “Those are the money downs.”
Parsons finished with two sacks, the forced fumble, and two tackles for a loss in the Cowboys’ 27-20 win over WFT, continuing a season that seems sure to end with the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and maybe even a Defensive Player of the Year nod as well.
Parsons is now the third rookie to record a sack in six consecutive games since the stat was officially tracked in 1982, joining Jevon Kearse in 1999 and Mike Croel in 1991. He’s just the fifth rookie since 2000 with at least 12 sacks and three forced fumbles, preceded by 2006 Mark Anderson, 2003 Terrell Suggs and both Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers in 2002. In short, the Penn State product is doing things on the field that we haven’t seen from a rookie in 15-20 years. Not bad for someone on a four-year rookie contract only worth around $17 million.
“I haven’t seen a skillset like this since Lawrence Taylor,” said NBC’s Chris Simms, whose dad Phil famously played with LT. “Off the ball linebacker, rush the passer, can do it all.”
Parsons’ 12 sacks may rank just seventh among all players this season, but the 115 yards for loss on those sacks ranks first. His 17 tackles for loss is just one shy of San Francisco’s Nick Bosa for the league lead.
It’s numbers like those that have people starting to hype the Harrisburg, P.A. native not just as the best defensive rookie, but the best defensive player this season.
And it’s not just ESPN’s Ryan Clark who thinks Parsons is worthy of DPOY, it’s NBC’s Rodney Harrison as well.
“He is a rookie and takes care of a lot of responsibilities, playing defensive end, learning linebacker, was dropping 30 yards down the field today,” said Harrison, a two-time Pro Bowl and two-time Super Bowl champion defensive back who played 15 NFL seasons. “No one can do what he does on a football field in the NFL. Nobody.”
At 9-4 with a three-game lead in the NFC East, the Cowboys are not only on the verge of clinching the playoffs but could compete for the conference’s lone bye. They have one game each against their divisional foes remaining, along with a pivotal home game on Jan. 2 against the conference-leading Arizona Cardinals. However far Dallas will go this season, much of it rests on Parsons, a rookie who’s playing like a seasoned vet.