There are a lot of high expectations for Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons in 2022. After a showstopping rookie campaign, the football world is wondering if the Defensive Rookie of the Year is a one-hit wonder or an NFL legend in the making. It’s fair to say most believe the latter. Parsons shows zero signs of slowing down, and his peers voted him among the top 20 players in the league heading into 2022.
This preseason, he has done nothing but impress and shown that he is virtually unblockable. It feels like every practice, one of the beat reporters says something along the lines of “if Parsons was allowed to sack” and finishes with some high number of how many times he’d have sat down Russel Wilson, Justin Herbert, or even Dak Prescott.
Parsons narrowly missed out on winning Defensive Player of the Year last year behind T.J. Watt, and that’s likely because the Steeler tied the NFL sack record. The difference between the two defenders is that the Cowboys LB is a versatile player. He was seen taking snaps at linebacker, defensive end, and even cornerback last year. If Parsons’ sole job was to pressure the quarterback, he likely would’ve had way more sacks.
Now, we already know the Cowboys have vehemently said they do not want to move Parsons permanently to the defensive end position. But he wasn’t a DE last year either and he still had 13.0 sacks.
Regardless of his skill and agility, Seth Walder of ESPN Analytics seems to think the 23-year-old’s sack numbers will drop this year. Walder believes Parsons will only have 10.0 sacks.
We all know the linebacker is out there trying to break the sack record. He even told reporters he wants 15 as a minimum. Fifteen is certainly a lofty goal, but projecting him to have three fewer sacks than last year with more experience and time in the league doesn’t feel right. You can say that teams will have his number and be more prepared for the linebacker, but his Swiss Army-knife ability to move all over the field will keep teams guessing.
Here’s more from Walder:
"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, every single one of the top ten defenders that Walder listed in the article are projecting downwards, so it’s not like he just thinks Parsons will suffer. Even Watt is expected to drop from 22.5 to 12.8.
For what it’s worth, the factors used to make these predictions were prior sack totals, projected snaps, pass rush win rate, how often the team’s DC blitzes, how often the opposing quarterbacks on the schedule get sacked, a player’s team win total, and how often a player rushes from the edge.
In this scenario, Parsons is predicted to end fifth in sack totals behind Watt (12.8), Myles Garrett (12.1), Nick Bosa (10.7), and Trey Hendrickson (10.7).
Do you think the Cowboys linebacker will have more or less than his 13.0 sacks from last season?