Grab another award for Cowboys phenom Micah Parsons. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year is looking to build on his lights-out 2022 and will do so as the league’s top linebacker, according to CBS Sports.
To create the list, Jordan Dajani not only looked at each player’s compiled stats so far, but also their approximate Pro Football Reference/Stathead score, PFF ratings, as well as a guess at how the player will fare in the future.
Parsons tops the list for his position, finishing just ahead of last year’s leader, the Rams’ Bobby Wagner. Indianapolis’ Darius Leonard, San Francisco’s Fred Warner and the Saints’ Demario Davis round out the top five.
“Parsons is versatile, smart and instinctive. You’re not doing what he did in his rookie season if you’re not a star.”
“Penn State’s product ranked #6 in the NFL for Sacks and #8 for Total Pressures… Versatility is required at the linebacker position, and his versatility is why Parsons is #1 on our list.”
But wait, some eagle-eyed observers might be wondering. What about T.J. Watts, Defensive Player of the Year Last Season? What about von Miller? Joey Bosa?
These players, as well as others officially listed as linebackers, actually make a very different list. Today’s shape-shifting defenses are blurring the line between traditional linebacker and defensive edge-rusher more than ever, with many players – including Parsons last season – going back and forth with often bewildering fluidity.
For purposes of the CBS Sports rankings, “edge defenders include defensive ends and pass-rushing linebackers.” Players are sorted by where most of their snaps were played in 2021; 3-4 pass rushers went with edge-rushing linemen.
Parsons stayed with the linebackers, although Dajani admits:
“We thought about whether Parsons should even be included on this list since he’s played quite a bit of pass rushing this past season, but the bottom line is that Parsons is a great linebacker who can wear several different hats on defense.”
“Parsons actually ranked 12th among linebackers with a PFF coverage grade of 70 in 295 coverage snapshots in 2021. If you go back and see him play during his rookie season, you’ll see not only a talented pass rusher, but also a good linebacker who can read and react quickly. A defender who can blast screenplay and get takedowns in the open field.”
This ability to play both linebacker and edge rusher – and both at an exceptionally high level – was the biggest revelation of the Cowboys 2021 season.
And before the team even packed its lockers after the wildcard playoff loss to the 49ers, Dallas coaches knew they wanted to try to do more of the same in 2022 with Parsons.
“The biggest thing he has to get used to is the changes that people are making for him,” Mike McCarthy said in January. “He’s a well-aimed challenge to an offense. That ability to move him around. Any player in this league will attest to that. Once you succeed, people will study the film and come up with a plan for you.”
When you aim for a No. 1 finish on your jersey, it becomes even more difficult to repeat that achievement.
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