Remember the good ‘ole days? You know, during the Cooper Rush era when the Dallas Cowboys’ flaunted a top-five defense? While the defense has put together some strong performances since Dak Prescott returned, Micah Parsons and company have crashed back down to earth for most of the last two months.
Before this elongated skid, the elusive “g” word (great) was thrown around to describe Dallas’ defense, and rightfully so.
What separated them from a good unit to a “great” one? The superstar play of Parsons, who entrenched himself as the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner after racking up eight sacks and 14 QB hits in the first eight games.
Like any player, Parsons cooled off after the scalding hot start. But even his biggest supporters can admit his impact hasn’t been felt as much as it should the last couple games. We even think Micah himself would admit that.
While Parsons notched his 13th sack of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars, it marked his first QB takedown in three games. His splash plays that were commonplace early in the season, have been few and far between, even though he’s generating consistent pressure.
In the simplest of terms, this Cowboys team isn’t going anywhere in the playoffs if Parsons doesn’t return to world-beater form. What might help him rediscover that form? How about lessening his workload as an edge rusher?
The Cowboys should sadly change Micah Parsons’ role on defense.
Appearing on Von Miller’s podcast — the same interview when Parsons took shots at Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts — Parsons talked about being a full-force player and going full-throttle on every snap. As an undersized edge rusher, Parsons has to exert more energy than most defenders to generate pressure.
Slowing Parsons down isn’t possible, but teams are learning to fatigue him by getting physical at the point of attack. After a certain number of reps of trying to navigate through 300-plus-pound offensive linemen, it’s only natural that fatigue would settle in. This could help explain Parsons limited impact as the season’s worn on.
In order to keep Parsons fresh late in games, the Cowboys should give him more looks at linebacker. With Leighton Vander Esch week to week with a shoulder stinger, and Anthony Barr looking older than most 30-year-old linebackers, Dallas’ defense could use Parsons’ in the second level of the defense.
Dare we say this could be a win-win for the Cowboys?
The idea of taking away a player’s greatest strength is crazy, but it could benefit Parsons (and the Cowboys) in the long run. Regardless of what the stats say, Parsons has gone missing for long stretches of games over the last month.
Assuming that’s attributed to fatigue from being a three-down pass rusher at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds (most edge rushers are at least 25-30 pounds heavier), moving Parsons back to linebacker on a part-time basis isn’t the craziest idea, especially with how much the position struggled after Vander Esch’s injury.