FRISCO, Texas – This type of versatility was always part of Micah Parsons' player profile, but talking about it and seeing it in action are two different things.
The dust has settled on Micah Parsons' pass rushing debut, and the results might be even more impressive than they looked during Sunday's win in Los Angeles.
He might be a rookie linebacker, but Parsons has the league buzzing about what he accomplished as an edge rusher against the Chargers. In addition to his stat line of two tackles, four quarterback hits and a sack, Pro Football Focus also credited him with eight pressures and gave him a pass rush grading of 90.8 – the second-highest rating among all defenders in the league.
"He can run and hit like you know what. That's his super power," said defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on Monday. "And he's got rare speed and physicality to do that."
So impressive was Parsons' performance that it's already prompting the question of whether it should be a long-term switch. Randy Gregory is expected back from the COVID-19 list this week, but DeMarcus Lawrence is still expected to miss roughly two months of playing time with a broken foot.
Is it possible that the rookie was good enough to see the lion's share of his snaps come on the edge?
"I thought he did a good job and it will continue to be a part of what he does, but there's also some good linebacker things that he does," Quinn said. "We're going to make sure we don't overload him but give him the right amount that he needs."
That should be an encouraging quote to read, given what we've seen from Parsons through two weeks. While his Week 1 outing against Tampa Bay might not have been as memorable, his five tackles and three pressures showed a glimpse of that versatility. To expand it so much in Week 2 – and on just a few days' notice – hammered the point home even more that Parsons is clearly capable of wearing several hats in Quinn's defense.
"He creates targeting challenges for the offense," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. "We'll maximize that opportunity the best we can. I think we all recognize the week that we went through last week, we had some changes midweek and that all factors that into it, too."
The fact that Parsons adapted so quickly is a testament to his draft stock. As Quinn noted, the vast majority of his pass rush experience comes from the linebacker spot, rather than the edge. Despite that Quinn called him a quick study due to how well he got up to speed.
"I'm hard on him because I have a lot of belief and trust in him," Quinn said. "I would not have asked him to do that if I didn't think he was ready to do it. This was the best thing for us to go win this game and so he said, 'Okay, I'm down.'"
It's fun to think that Parsons' role in any given week might reflect what the coaching staff thinks gives them the best opportunity to win.
Monday's home opener against Philadelphia could present a perfect example. In addition to what he brings to the matchup as a quarterback, Jalen Hurts leads the Eagles in rushing through two weeks with 144 yards on just 17 carries.
Parsons' sideline-to-sideline speed could go a long way toward combating that. Or, as Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones pointed out on Tuesday morning, there is another element of Parsons' game that hasn't been showcased much – his ability to blitz.
"You can get pressure in the middle, and he's that quick. He's that fast," Jones said. "He gave them fits in college and he can do that here after having seen him through training camp and these first two ballgames. But you can get pressure up the middle with him."