IRVINE, Calif. – A hundred miles south of Oxnard, the Cowboys' training camp headquarters for the past three weeks, the heat hits a little different in the greater Los Angeles area.
By the end of Wednesday's competitive joint practice at the LA Chargers' training camp site, Cowboys All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons felt "dog tired."
"I usually just try to push through it," he said. "It ain't always going to be easy, and you've got to learn how to go even when you can't breathe."
Indeed, Wednesday brought higher temperatures, higher pace and higher stakes against another team. It's the type of quality work Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy envisioned when he scheduled three total joint practices for camp: one with the Broncos last week in Denver, and two with the Chargers (Wednesday and Thursday) leading into Saturday's second preseason game.
Through the heat, Parsons, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, was pleased with the defense's results against one of the league's most talented young offenses.
"I thought we did a great job knowing what they have and what we did today," he said. "I thought we dominated as a defense, and that's just setting a tempo and standard for what's to come this year."
Parsons and the Cowboys defensive line was effective pressuring Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense in Wednesday's team drills -- a controlled, non-tackle environment compared to preseason game action. As a group, the defense has looked cohesive and active throughout its second camp with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
With Quinn's system already in place, and the vast majority of last year's starters back, Parsons believes the defense is "10 times better" at this point in camp than they were in 2021.
"And that's just all around the board," he said. "Everybody knowing their role, owning their role and doing their role. I think everyone had to adjust to what we have in the room. We have a lot of guys that can go."
As last year's team sack leader (13.0) with a uniquely versatile skill set, Parsons knows his particular role within the group.
"When I'm spying a QB, rushing the passer, dropping in coverage, I've got to be the person in that position for this team," he said. "It's not just about me. There's 10 other guys on that field to help me do what I do and those guys push me every day. I just own my role every day, and I've just got to do my role as best as I possibly can."
It's a "lion mentality" Parsons wants to bring to the defense again this season, as they look to build on a turnaround 2021 season.
"You're not going to get the first gazelle," he said. "Sometimes it's the third. You've got to keep hunting."