Dallas Cowboys Micah Parsons as middle linebacker? Not so fast…

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

What if I told you the Dallas Cowboys cannot be trusted? That everything coming out or The Star this offseason is calculated and intended to be vague or even misleading? Assuming you’re a veteran Cowboys fan, you probably wouldn’t find any of that very surprising.

So when Micah Parsons states, “Right now I’m at MIKE linebacker” how confident should we be that middle linebacker (MIKE) will be his permanent position in 2021? How confident are we it will even be his primary position?

Based on how the Dallas Cowboys have handled this offseason I’m not sure we should be confident about much of anything. Especially in this situation since the defensive coordinator and front office have hinted otherwise…

Micah Parsons isn’t just going to play MIKE for the Dallas Cowboys, he’s also going to play edge rusher

Jerry spoke to reporters shortly after drafting Micah Parsons and he had this to say,

"“Pressure, pressure, pressure,” Jones said. “Same kind of thought you’d have if you were looking at the best outside pass-rusher. Because he might be.”"

Micah Parsons may be playing some MIKE for the Dallas Cowboys in 2021 but we expect a whole lot more pass rushing from him than your normal middle linebacker. And I’m not talking about blitzing, I’m talking about rushing off the edge.

Micah Parsons: The pass-rusher

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking or just a stubborn refusal to accept our beloved franchise invested a top-12 pick in an off-ball linebacker, but there’s reason to believe Micah Parsons will be doing a whole lot more than play a low value position like MIKE every week.

Middle linebacker is important, don’t get me wrong. Much like a running back, the MIKE serves an important role on every team. It’s just, also like a running back, 90% of even a great player’s production can be filled with replacement level talent.

That’s why using Micah Parsons as just a MIKE would be a colossal waste of talent. It would be like bringing in the nation’s top neurosurgeon to re-grout your on-suite bathroom. The grout is important, indeed, you just don’t need someone as special as a neurosurgeon to do it for you.

Obviously, Micah Parsons is the neurosurgeon in that analogy. Parsons is a supremely talented football player. He can do things 99% of NFL players simply cannot. That’s how special he is. He’s bigger, stronger, and faster than just about anyone else. And his ability to run and chase is almost as impressive as his ability to rush the passer.

Rushing the passer isn’t just a more valuable skill set than playing MIKE, it’s also a much rarer skill that better utilizes Parsons’ talents. In fact, his ability to rush the passer is exactly what Jerry Jones spoke of after drafting Parsons.

Related Story. 5 Ways for the Cowboys to generate more interior pressure. light

Jones stated Parsons was Dallas’ top rated defender more for his pass-rushing ability than coverage and he might be the best outside pass-rusher in the class. Mike McCarthy later said Parsons was the most impactful player at applying pressure in the draft.

Some may say, “but they could be talking about Micah’s ability to blitz from the MIKE”. And that’s partially true. McCarthy pointed out Parsons’ ability to apply pressure from the interior so that has to be in the cards for him.

The only problem is Dan Quinn’s defense doesn’t blitz much. From his days in Seattle to his time in Atlanta, Dan Quinn has one of the lowest blitz percentages in football. So drafting a player for their ability to blitz, in a system they probably won’t blitz much, is like ordering a steak dinner based on the side salad. It’s an odd element to be focused on.

That’s why we shouldn’t look at Micah Parsons as the primary MIKE. The Cowboys said his pass rushing ability was one of the main factors in drafting him because they intend to use him as such. He’s going to be more than a middle linebacker.

Micah Parsons: Man of many hats

Don’t forget, after discussing Parsons’ pass rush ability, Jerry Jones followed up with, “number of ways to use him.” What all of this tells us is Micah Parsons is going to be a man of many hats.

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Early in the rookie minicamp we’ve seen Parsons take plenty of snaps at MIKE. But we’ve also seen him routinely line up on the edge and take those offensive tackles to task. In fact, if there’s one big thing he’s standing out at, it’s rushing off the edge.

Before the draft, multiple scouts stated that if Micah Parsons classified himself as an edge player, he’d likely be the top edge prospect in the draft. That’s how special he is.

That’s not to say Parsons is going to hit the ground running as a dominant force, though. He’s a bit of a freelancer and isn’t as disciplined in his run fits as you’d like. His coverage responsibilities have been pretty elementary as well so that’s going to take time to develop as well.

The things he’s going to do well is to rush the passer off the edge and run and chance the ball sideline to sideline. Again, that’s exactly what we’re seeing early in camp.

Depending how quickly he develops, Parsons is probably going to be playing MIKE, WILL, and maybe even LEO fairly quickly in his Cowboys career. This should be welcomed news for anyone hoping to maximize his impact on the field.

This will also be a nightmare for opposing offenses since Dallas will be rotating their stable of linebackers often. Their position flex will make them hard to identify in their assignments (we basically have four linebackers who could be MIKE, WILL, or SAM on any given down).

"“He can play the SAM, the MIKE, and the WILL positions,” Mike McCarthy said of Parsons. “Whether he is covered up in the buddle, playing to the open guard, or playing the [designated pass rusher]."

In coming weeks and months we’ll be discussing Micah Parsons’ many different roles on the Dallas Cowboys. We’ll talk about where he fits in the base 3-4 and in the nickel 4-man front. We’ll track his progress and break down how the linebacker rotations will work as well.

Micah Parsons identified as a MIKE ‘backer before minicamp but don’t let that fool you into thinking that will be his only (or even primary) position in Dallas. He’s going to be rushing the passer from the edge as well.

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Don’t worry, it doesn’t appear the Dallas Cowboys intend on wasting Micah Parsons at MIKE all year. They have plans…

  • Published on 05/16/2021 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 05/15/2021 at 20:51 PM