FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys have plenty of question marks surrounding the entire team. It seems as if every position has at least one or two question marks about the immediate future.
And defensive end is no exception, especially with Randy Gregory set to be a free agent and DeMarcus Lawrence having one of the biggest contracts on the team and being a potential cap-casualty if they choose that route.
But then there's the Micah Parsons dilemma. And this "problem" will probably be diagnosed based off what happens with the team's traditional defensive ends such as Gregory and Lawrence and even Dorance Armstrong, who is also a free agent.
But at some point, the Cowboys are going to have to figure out just where they want to play Parsons, who led the team with 13.0 sacks, setting a franchise rookie record. In fact, had Parsons not missed the Week 17 game in Philadelphia due to COVID, he might have been able to break the NFL's single-season rookie sack record of 14.5 by Jevon Kearse.
And to think, he did all of that with a knee injury? Parsons revealed this week that he played through most of the season with a hyperextended knee that limited him in practices during the week.
So if Parsons can be the unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year and flirt with Cowboys and NFL records throughout the year with an injured knee, just how good can he be in 2022?
What we know for sure is that Parsons has elite pass-rushing skills and proved that time and time again last year.
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn did a masterful job of putting Parsons in the right spots to be effective as a rusher.
Sometimes we saw Parsons blitz from the linebacker spot. At times, he would play first and second down at linebacker and then line up on the edge on third downs or pass-rushing situations.
And then, during the games the Cowboys were without either Gregory, Lawrence or both, Parsons saw extensive snaps as a rusher.
In Week 2 against the Chargers, Gregory was out with Covid and Lawrence had just suffered a broken foot in practice that week, Parsons surprised us all, including the Chargers, by playing most of the game as a defensive end.
While he struggled somewhat early in the game, he found his groove later on and ended up making a game-changing sack on Justin Herbert. It was Parsons' first sack of his career and ended up helping the Cowboys secure a 20-17 win.
But the debate is clear:
Should Parsons be a full-time defensive end and rush the passer on nearly every snap? Or does he have a better advantage of disguising his rush attempts by playing linebacker and having a rangy, speedy linebacker in the middle of the field.
From the sounds of things, Parsons says the answer is "both," so he can showcase his versatility as a weapon.
"I just like lining up everywhere and just being dynamic," Parsons said last month. "It's almost like at recess for me. I feel like I'm a kid out there. I never play just one position. I feel like, if I could just rush, I might be a 18-20 sack guy, too. And if I just stayed in pass coverage and run, I might be a 100-tackle guy, too.
But that's where the dilemma is for the Cowboys.
In the last 20 years, at least 13 players have recorded 100+ tackles. In that span, only one player has registered more than 18 sacks in a season. That was DeMarcus Ware, who had 20 in 2008 and 19.5 in 2011.
And knowing that the Cowboys value pass rushers at a premium, it's hard to think they could sitting on a player that could potentially get 20 sacks in a season.
Then again, the counter to that is Parsons might be even more effective as a rusher if teams aren't sure when it's coming. And that's where Quinn comes into the picture again.
His return to the Cowboys sideline will be big for the entire defense, but probably no player will benefit more than Parsons.
Regardless where he lines up.