It took only one year for Micah Parsons' explosiveness as a pass rusher to lead him from mostly a hybrid lionbacker to the edge of the D-line, where he'll play full-time going forward
FRISCO, Texas — Heading into the 2022 season, there were questions regarding just where Micah Parsons would line up most of the time. Was he still a linebacker tasked with moving round in a rousing weekly contest of "Where's Waldo?", or would head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn decide to commit him to the edge of the defensive line?
That question was answered in a major way over the course of last season, with Parsons going onto play more than three-fourths of his defensive snaps on the defensive line.
He went on to deliver 13.5 sacks in 17 starts, nudging past the 13 he racked up in his breakout rookie season, but he often confessed the added punishment taken by defensive linemen was something his body might not have been prepared for.
To that point, he's currently in Austin, Texas ahead of veterans reporting for OTAs in late May — adding muscle mass with an eye on fully committing himself to the role of edge rusher in 2023.
"Just trying to stick in the run," said Parsons after taking some swings in the 10th annual Reliant Home Run Derby. "It's hard battling 300-pound guys and 245-pound guys every week. So I'm just trying to put on five pounds of muscle by eating right and living right."
The move is not entirely unexpected, considering it's already technically happened, and while that doesn't mean you'll never see Parsons drop back as a linebacker, the reality is those chances are now wildly inverse to what his LB/DE splits were in 2021.
And that means the linebacker room, led by Leighton Vander Esch and second-year talent Damone Clark, will be looked upon to lead the way for what is now one of the youngest groups on the entire depth chart.
"We're a young room, and it feels weird because I thought we were young last year," said LVE of Parson's departure from the LB corps (mostly). "This year we're even younger. It's gonna be fun. We've got a lot to learn still and a lot to develop, just taking it upon ourselves to take it upon ourselves to still be the leader of this defense and to still communicate at a high level; and to get that ingrained in our mind because everything goes through us.
"We have to get everybody lined up and we have to make the coverage checks, so showing these [young] guys what it's about but having fun doing it. That's what matters."
Parsons enters his third year hoping to continue building on what's already been one of the hottest starts to an NFL career in the history of not only the Cowboys, but of the entire league, and that begins with making sure he can both remain effective as a pass rusher but also as a run stopper and, most importantly, remaining available to deliver on both of those promises.
The game of "Where's Waldo?" may be over, but Parsons' game of freeze tag against opposing quarterbacks and running backs might be at another level in 2023.