The unofficial seemed to have become official with the Dallas Cowboys: Two-time first-team All-Pro Micah Parsons said last month that he is making the transition from linebacker to defensive end, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. However, Parsons revealed earlier this month that the positional switch isn't about going from one position to another but about the ability to move across multiple spots along the defensive line and as a linebacker.
"We're doing a lot of special things," Parsons said, via The Athletic. "I don't want to give a lot away right now, but it's going to be a really cool year. I'm probably going to play like eight positions this year. Don't even ask me [which ones]. Just stay tuned. Everything that's in that front seven and some coverage. I'm gonna do it all. This is gonna be a year to remember for sure."
Parsons' defensive coordinator Dan Quinn affirmed his star's experimental desire, elaborating on how this part of the offseason is all about trying new things.
"I thought we were only at one position?" Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told CBS Sports jokingly at Cowboys minicamp. "My job is to help find matchups, Micah and others, to put guys in spots where we can really allow them to rip and kick ass. That's been my goal all along. We've got a lot of unique players. How we feature safety Donovan [Wilson], [safety] JK [Jayron Kearse], Micah and [defensive lineman] Dorance Armstrong and others, we like to move them around and put them into different spots. … We're not gonna ask somebody to do something that they've never done or haven't been ready for. This is a good time to explore that."
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Parsons elaborated that adding "bulk and weight" has been part of his offseason workout regimen while training in Austin, Texas earlier this offseason. The bulk he plans to add is no more than 10 pounds as he tweeted he doesn't plan on playing at a weight any heavier than 255 pounds. This week, Parsons told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he currently weighs 248 pounds but indeed wants to get up to 255 by the start of the season.
"It's about stability," Parsons said. "Strengthening joints, strengthening the knees, shoulders, so all the nagging injuries don't come across. Especially in the groin. I'm trying to stay as healthy as possible."
Quinn explained what Parsons' bulk is for entering 2023, the All-Pro's third NFL season: his explosion off the line of scrimmage.
"I'd say the added bulk is maybe not as big as we think, but what does happen usually when somebody goes to get specific on a training thing, going away, finding somebody you know that you're going to train with, there's certain parts of your development that you want," Quinn told CBS Sports at minicamp. "'I want to better get off.' There's something physical that you're working on, and so Micah specifically, not only did he do that from the physical standpoint, but he also wanted to talk to guys you know, like, big Andrew Whitworth or with DeMarcus [Ware]. Ware came here a few weeks ago and shared the day with us. It was an awesome day, man. It was like the example we were just speaking of sharing wisdom. I learned from DeMarcus that day and I was the one taking notes. So all those little interactions that happen between ballplayers where they're ready to share it back to the younger group. That's their responsibility, and I've said to Micah 'that's your job in 10 years to pass that along to somebody else.' That's kind of the cool part of the brotherhood of the NFL. When guys want help and assistance, they usually come through for one another, whether they played for that team are not, so for guys around here like [former Cowboys safety] Darren Woodson or the DeMarcus or someone who wants to lend that hand and that help. That's a really cool resource for us."
While Parsons may be making the entire world aware of his positional switch in advance of the 2023 season, the 31 other NFL teams were probably aware that his transition to defensive end already took place in 2022. He truly was a linebacker his rookie year in 2021, in which he won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, lining up in a traditional linebacker location before the snap 55.2% of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. The pendulum of his pre-snap location swung hard the other way in 2022, when he lined up an overwhelming 81.1% of the time along the defensive line.
Quinn, though, cautioned that Parsons is not actually making a full-time position switch, even if he seemingly already did it last season. "He's a pass-rushing linebacker," Quinn said on May 13 of Parsons, per The Athletic. "If you ever need position changes, come to me. What I think he was probably trying to say is, 'I'm really emphasizing some pass rush into my offseason.'"
Micah Parsons career defensive snap alignment
*Data according to Pro Football Focus
The switch made Parsons a better player at one of the most valuable skills in the entire NFL: Being able to get after the quarterback. He co-led the NFL in quarterback pressures (90) last season with 2022 Defensive Player of the Year and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, while his 13.5 sacks last season ranked as the seventh most in the NFL, five behind Bosa's league-leading 18.5. Even when he was lining up mostly at linebacker as a rookie, Parsons still wreaked havoc in opposing backfields, totaling just one-half sack fewer in 2021 (13.0). However, his quarterback pressures total improved significantly from Year 1 when his 67 pressures were tied for the ninth-most in the NFL.
However, going to toe-to-toe with Bosa and others to win the NFL's sacks title isn't what motivates Parsons, at least not anymore because this Cowboy doesn't want to be seen as a one-trick pony.
"I'm kinda off the sack wave," Parsons said. "I'm onto the impact wave. You see Aaron Donald. He can have 12 sacks, but the impact he makes is so dominant. You can tell. I really just want to be dominant. And then you see guys who have 16-17 sacks, but they're not considered a guy. I want to be a guy, not one of the guys. You feel me? … I'm not chasing for something. I'm trying to achieve and be greater than someone who is chasing."
This desire likely explains Parsons Mazi Smith with their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, because the All-Pro saw a player who can garner more attention from interior offensive linemen. That will free him up to move more freely around the defensive formation.when the Cowboys selected Michigan defensive tackle
"You got to give him attention," Parsons said of Smith, per ESPN. "He's going to push guys back. He's powerful. He's strong. He's going to get under people's pads, and he's great in the run and we're going to develop him in the pass."
The thinking in Dallas is probably that the more strength Parsons adds as his snap alignment tilts even more toward the defensive line position, the more his quarterback pressures and sack numbers, his impact, will continue to rise.