FRISCO, Texas — It was no secret that the Cowboys were looking for a cornerback with their first round pick last April. It seemed like the most obvious need and the easiest fit into the defense assuming tphe rookie was good enough to start.
But the cornerbacks who they felt met that standard were off the board by the time Dallas was on the clock. So, whoever they drafted would have to be athletic and versatile enough to help the team regardless of fit or circumstance.
Enter Micah Parsons.
"My vision of Micah when he was on the board is that he was an impact player," Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. "That was the term that we continued to speak of him and how we would utilize him."
The early season injuries and lack of availability of various defensive ends on the roster (particularly DeMarcus Lawrence) have created a need more impactful players, and Parsons has so far passed the test. Parsons was used primarily as a pass rusher starting plays on the line of scrimmage in Monday's victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, and his speed and athleticism clearly disrupted the Philadelphia offense.
Linebacker or defensive end? Parsons isn't worried about where he starts a play, only how he finishes it.
"I'm just out there. I'm going to make an impact. I don't believe it really should matter. I mean, you look at (Jalen) Ramsey. He played outside corner now he's playing nickel like…If you're a dog, you're going to be a dog," Parsons said. "It shouldn't matter where you're at on the field. You should have unbelievable effort and the tenacity to go out there and try to win the game for the team."
His success while functionally serving as a defensive end was not enough for McCarthy to suggest this week that Parsons could permanently switch away from linebacker. He claimed that as far back as last spring, the team put him at all three linebacker positions in what, at the time, was essentially a crash course of the defense. Given his skills and the makeup of the team's roster McCarthy said Wednesday that "Ideally, that's the way you like to play him" before admitting "but he's doing an excellent job adjusting with the opportunity he has now to play on the line of scrimmage more."
The way Parsons looked like a missile coming for Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurt on Monday was reminiscent of a Pro Bowl linebacker who McCarthy coached in Green Bay: Clay Matthews. When asked about the comparison, McCarthy said that the Packers drafted Matthews to be an outside linebacker rushing the quarterback in a 3-4 defense and eventually successfully moved him to middle linebacker. The Cowboys are temporarily doing a sort of reverse of that by moving Parsons to the role of pass rusher.
"But clearly with rookies and how you utilize them in your defense, it's a very similar approach," McCarthy said. "You want to make sure those guys have plenty of opportunities to impact the game."
Lawrence will continue to be out for the Cowboys' next couple games, but Parsons himself wouldn't divulge Wednesday where he would be lining up on Sunday against Carolina. "Man, I can't give that stuff away," Parsons said with a smile. "I want the Panthers to be on edge."
Whatever Parsons' position with the Cowboys turns out to be in years to come, McCarthy said that there was no doubt that Parsons is improving due to the circumstances. "He becomes more versatile in his alignments," McCarthy said before stating that the way offenses' focus on him is already making life easier on his teammates.
Ultimately, Parsons just wants to be on the field. On Wednesday, he suggested that good players can make impacts playing different positions or schemes. "It really shouldn't matter," Parsons said. "You should have unbelievable effort and tenacity."