Lawrence Taylor is the only rookie to win Defensive Player of the Year honors in NFL history. Could Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons join the Hall of Famer, swiping both the Defensive Rookie of the Year and DPOY awards?
Parsons has made a strong case in recent weeks. In his last six games, the rookie leads all players with 9.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 16 QB hits. His 9.5 sacks since Week 9 are more than either of the last two pass rushers to win DROY had in their entire rookie seasons (Chase Young had 7.5 in 2020, Nick Bosa had 9.0 in 2019).
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (tackles and sacks were unofficial stats in 1981 in Taylor’s rookie season), LT had 133 tackles and 9.5 sacks in his rookie season. Parsons is on pace for 98 tackles and 16.0 sacks this year.
Despite the comparisons to Taylor that Parsons’ play has spurred, the rookie shunned those appraisals.
“It’s really too early,” Parsons said this week, via the Associated Press. “I could see the similarities. But LT was completely different. It’s an honor that people are doing that. But to be compared to a Hall of Famer so early on, I mean it’s not ready to be in the conversation yet. I still have a long way to go.”
Parsons’ 12.0 sacks this season are seventh in the NFL, most by a rookie, and tied for eighth-most by a rookie since 1982 (when sacks became an official stat). He set the Cowboys’ rookie sack mark earlier this year.
With four games to play, Parsons needs three sacks to beat Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record of 14.5.
“That drive I have inside of me, wanting to be great, wanting to do more, wanting more on my plate just comes with wanting to do this,” Parsons said. “I don’t think nobody can become something by sitting back and watch and waiting for something to happen. I am trying to initiate it to happen.”
Parsons’ play has spearheaded a Cowboys defense that has gelled and carried Dallas of late with the offense in a slump.
Whether he’s lining up on the defensive line in an off-ball linebacker spot or blitzing up the gut, Parsons comes up big seemingly every time Dallas needs a play.
The Penn State product is the first player with 75-plus tackles and 12.0 or more sacks through his team’s first 13 games since Pittsburgh’s James Harrison in 2008 — he won Defensive Player of the Year that season.
“(Penn State) coach (James) Franklin preached it a lot: the great ones always figure it out,” Parsons said. “Whether it’s just small details in your routine that you may have to change, or you’ve got to add things to your game that you’ve got to get comfortable with. And if you figure it out, it’s always going to be a lot of success for yourself. Hopefully, I’m figuring it out and I just keep adding on to it.”
The more Parsons adds, the scarier he becomes, and the more dangerous the Dallas D gets as we head toward the postseason.
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