With a first-team All-Pro selection and a DROY award to his name, it’s hard to see how Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons can improve.
But for the player and for Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, there are always ways to get better. That’s why McCarthy said that he was pleased with his defender’s rookie season, but also issued a warning that Parsons has to keep working to be an “elite” player.
“Obviously Micah had a lot of great moments last year, but our desire—and it needs to be his desire—is for him to be an elite player, not just a great player,” McCarthy said according to ESPN’s Todd Archer.
After a season-changing rookie campaign, a head coach calling for even more focus and execution can come off the wrong way. That’s not how Parsons sees it though, and the 23-year-old explained as much in an interview with Bleacher Report.
“My reaction to [McCarthy’s criticism] is that’s the expectation, so there’s nothing to get excited about,” Parsons said. “I want my coach to believe that I would take that type of jump. It’s going to take me focusing on my body and focusing on my mental.”
That’s probably the exact response McCarthy wanted to hear.
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Parsons Makes a Statement in 2021
Coming out of Penn State and being projected as a high or mid-first round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the expectation was for Parsons to make an immediate impact. However, his rookie season blew those standards away.
In 16 games, the former Nittany Lion totaled 13 sacks, three forced fumbles and 64 solo tackles. Further, his 30 QB hits in 2021 are the most by a player since the stat has been recorded.
Parsons’ unique responsibility in the Dallas defense is partially responsible for his success. By moving around from linebacker to defensive end frequently, it forces opposing offenses to constantly be monitoring his position.
It allows the 23-year-old to contribute at the second level with Leighton Vander Esch, but gives him enough opportunities to put his hand in the ground and run after passers. Parsons’ stats show exactly how successful that strategy was in 2021.
Cowboys Star Shooting for NFL Sack Record
If anything, it seems as if Parsons’ expectations for his sophomore season are even higher than McCarthy’s. Any person wants to improve year to year, but Parsons isn’t just looking to beat his rookie total.
He wants the NFL sack record.
“Yeah, 15’s like the minimum. 15’s what I wanna hit,” Parsons said according to Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports. “But definitely 23 is that goal, to break the record.”
The current NFL single-season sack record is held by New York Giants legend Michael Strahan, who totaled 22.5 sacks in his 2001 campaign. Parsons would need 10 more sacks on top of his impressive 2021 total. Fortunately, the seventh game being added to the NFL schedule makes it a more possible feat.
Further, Parsons also sent a “warning” to teammate and corner Trevon Diggs. Diggs tied the Cowboys franchise record for interceptions in a season with 11 in 2021, but Parsons wants to outdo him in 2022.
“I told [Trevon Diggs] I might lead the team in picks this year,” the Cowboys linebacker said according to NFL.com. “We don’t got no money on it, but I’ve been really practicing my hands this year to get my hands on a couple picks this year.”