Dallas Cowboys: Why are Micah Parsons’ talents being underutilized?

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

Call it great scouting, call it good fortune or call it just plain dumb luck. In either case, the outlook for the Dallas Cowboys defense changed dramatically with the drafting of Penn State linebacker, Micah Parsons. In his rookie season, Parsons’ talents were on full display as he took the league by storm amassing 84 total tackles and 13 sacks earning him Unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year honors as well as receiving consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

Micah entered year two of his NFL career under sought after defensive coordinator Dan Quinn with high expectations. From a production standpoint, he will receive strong consideration again for Defensive Player of the Year. However, many expected to see Parsons’ talents manifest itself into the middle linebacker role in Year 2. That has not been the case. It should not be too surprising considering GM/Owner Jerry Jones was emphatic last year that Micah would be rushing the passer.

Why are the Dallas Cowboys underutilizing Micah Parsons’ talents this season?

light. Related Story. Dallas Cowboys Micah Parsons as middle linebacker? Not so fast…

So, let’s dive into some of the other factors that has limited Parsons to the pass rusher role.

1). Limited pass rush outside of Micah: The Cowboys, on paper, boasts a formidable group of pass rushers across their defensive front. The group includes DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Sam Williams (Rookie), Dante Fowler and Chauncey Golston. On paper, that list includes a mixture of veteran experience with youthful upside. But the question remains, is that mixture outside of Parsons, translating to production on the field?

According to SharpFootballAnalysis.com, the Cowboys have the 13th rank defensive front in 2022. Taking into consideration the production of the defensive edge rushers only, they have accounted for a total of 24 sacks according to CBSsports.com. That’s an average of 4.8 sacks per defender. That’s not a stat to run home and tell mom about. To add fuel to the fire, that includes a 2022 Pro Bowl player.

So, while the Cowboys would love to move Parsons’ talents back to the position he held at Penn State, we can clearly see it will come at a cost to the defensive pressures that the line can generate. His pressure rate alone at 18.1% is something the Cowboys are not willing to part with.

2). Impact on Leighton Vander Esch: The Cowboys been more than excited, maybe even elated, with the play of Middle Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. Prior to Leighton’s injury, he was playing at a level commensurate with a 19th overall pick. Some would contest he was playing at a Pro Bowl level. The expectation is that the Cowboys will have him back for the playoffs according to Cowboys Wire.USAtoday.com.

The major drawback with Vander Esch is that he plays the middle linebacker position exclusively. Does anyone remember the shenanigans that took place when Leighton and Jaylin Smith manned the middle of our defense? It was not a pretty sight to see.

Both players were downhill tacklers with limited wiggle and bend which ultimately led to Jaylin’s release. In this defense, Quinn prefers to have both Vander Esch and Parsons’ talents on the field together. But how do they do that in the big nickel scheme that Quinn employs with Jayron Kearse as an extra safety/linebacker? The easy and probably lazy answer is to keep Micah as a pass rusher.

This offseason is going to be a very interesting one. Leighton will be a free-agent and he is going to command more dollars than the Cowboys are willing to spend unless his neck scares teams away. If someone takes a flier on him, fans will get their answer if it was Leighton stalling Micah’s development or if the Cowboys fell in love with the pressures Micah generates.

3). Dan Quinn’s Defensive Philosophy: Julian Peterson (49ers), Jason Taylor (Dolphins), Bryan Thomas (Jets), Bruce Irvin (Seahawks) and Vic Beasley (Falcons). What do all of these gentlemen have in common? They have all played for Dan Quinn when he has been employed as either the defensive line coach, defensive coordinator or head coach. He has always needed a designated pass rusher to be successful in his aggressive scheme.

At the moment, Micah is his claim to fame or at least another head coaching job. While Dan’s track record speaks for itself, there is still a cause for concern with Micah’s health. Both Bruce Irvin and Vic Beasley were Quinn’s designated rush linebackers in his last two stops in Seattle and Atlanta. Granted they were not the same caliber of player as Micah, injuries played a role in impacting their careers.  Exhibit A was the club on Micah’s left hand.

Micah is a generational talent with rare ability to get to the quarterback. Fans love seeing him get to the quarterback, but at what cost?

The Dallas Cowboys should proceed with caution with Micah’s career. They have a hall of fame talent on the team who still needs to be developed. Hopefully, the Dallas Cowboys don’t get so caught up in the sacks that we forget about what he could be.