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USATSI

He's a superstar on the Dallas Cowboys. He played a different position in college than he's playing now in the NFL. He's 22-year-old Micah Parsons

The Cowboys rookie edge rusher demonstrated Thor-like power in the first half of Dallas' deliver-on-Mike-McCarthy's-guarantee win in the nation's capital over the Washington Football Team, a victory that appeared to be headed toward being a blowout but was ultimately a little too close for comfort for Cowboys fans. 

Five pressures, two sacks, and a forced fumble on 17 pass-rush snaps for Parsons. Bananas. 

The sack became an official stat in 1982, and though we don't have pressure stats dating back that long, what Parsons has done as a pass rusher this season is basically unprecedented. 

You watch football. So you know Parsons has been pretty damn good this season. But I'm going to venture a guess you don't realize just how good he's been in a historical context. Here's how the rookie season for the Cowboys star compares to other instant-star rushers over the last decade. 


Pass-Rush SnapsPressuresPressure-Creation %

Micah Parsons, 2021

255

55

21.5%

Nick Bosa, 2019

492

80

16.2%

Joey Bosa, 2016

363

59

16.2%

Von Miller, 2011

404

60

14.8%

Aaron Donald, 2014

454

44

9.6%
J.J. Watt, 2011498438.6%

Amazing, right? Yeah. Insane.

Parsons hasn't had quite the pass-rushing volume of the other household names on that list, but let's remember something. He was a former five-star recruit at defensive end, but was so athletically impressive at Penn State coaches decided he should play linebacker, which asked him to mostly play off the ball where his explosion would allow him to range from sideline to sideline, and he could kick down to the edge on passing downs. 

While the start to his pro career locks him into an edge-rusher role in Dallas for the foreseeable future, his impact reaches beyond his tremendous efficiency getting to the quarterback. And by the way, he's approaching Javon Kearse's rookie sack record of 14.5 -- Parsons has 12 now with four games remaining). 

Parsons has 75 tackles on the season and his 17 tackles for loss mean he's closing in on Kendrell Bell's rookie record of 23 tackles for loss, a mark that's stood since 2001. The only defenders who had more tackles for loss as rookies than Parsons does now are Donald (18), Dwight Freeney (19), Miller (19), Lavonte David (20), and Bell. 

He's also forced three fumbles. 

When Dallas picked Parsons this was my immediate reaction: 

I thought Parsons would be good, and his pass-rushing prowess would offset his rawness in coverage. Did I think he'd be this effective this early in his pro career after opting out of the 2020 season at Penn State? Definitely not. 

And I wouldn't be shocked if the Cowboys felt similarly. It was a September injury to DeMarcus Lawrence that forced Parsons to play on the edge on a more full-time basis. 

What he's doing this season is setting a new standard for productivity as an edge rusher in his first NFL campaign. And it's been done by a college linebacker who's also handled regular NFL linebacker duties quite well too. 

All that makes for Parsons emerging as the obvious Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he'll deservedly get Defensive Player of the Year votes too. Myles Garrett has rushed the passer around 150 more times than Parsons, but his pressure-creation rate is only 15.2%. T.J. Watt's has just 43 more rushes than Parsons with a 13.7% pressure-creation rate. 

Parsons stepped onto an NFL field, was thrust into a new position, and became an immediate superstar.