OXNARD, Calif. -- Believe it or don't, but it's possible Micah Parsons might be even better in 2022 than he was in his explosive 2021 debut with the Dallas Cowboys. For as difficult as that might be to fathom, the reality is this is a player who wasn't perfect in Year 1, something both he and film readily confess, so when head coach Mike McCarthy sets the stage for a potential level up from his defensive phenom, you shouldn't take his projections with a grain of salt.
And it appears Parsons has upped and/or altered his training regimen to make himself that much more of a physical specimen.
"You know, I think Micah is a second-year player," said McCarthy from Cowboys training camp in Oxnard. "And what you look from from the rookie class -- we talk about it all the time -- is taking that second-year jump. He's lost a little weight, he's had a really good offseason. Obviously, in Year 2, and how people look at him, and how they'll have to game plan against him, we've had a whole year to implement the schemes around that and to make sure we're giving him the opportunities he's needing. ... He's definitely put himself in a position to take a big second-year jump.
" ... He's definitely going to be a big part of our defensive success."
It was Parsons, along with a record-setting season from fellow First-Team All-Pro Trevon Diggs, who carried the Cowboys defense for Dan Quinn in 2021, particularly in the absence of an injured Demarcus Lawrence. The former Penn State linebacker finished last season with a team-high 13 sacks, 84 combined tackles (64 solo, 20 tackles for loss), three pass break ups and three forced fumbles while very nearly adding an interception or two to his stat line -- also being named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But while there have been questions on if Parsons will be looked upon to replace right defensive end Randy Gregory, who departed for the Denver Broncos in free agency, that's not the Cowboys plan. If anything, they understand that one of the biggest weapons in Parsons' war chest is his versatility, and they're not looking to take that away from him which would, in turn, make Quinn's defense more predictable.
So, yes, a more chiseled Parsons will continue to rush the passer off of the edge at times but, no, it will not be his full-time gig going forward. He will instead remain primarily a linebacker whose true role is in that he has more than one of them.
"The people that say, 'Hey, why don't you play him at defensive end?' " McCarthy said in March. "Very fair. That's a very fair question. But we've made it clear: We want him moving around."
"It would be very easy to just line him up at end and play him there every down. But the fact of the matter is he had, what, 13 sacks. Seven came from the linebacker position, six from the defensive end position. I know as an offensive guy, you're helping me if you can line him up at one position every time."
For his part, Parsons is already working on leveling up, and not in one area/role.
"Bro, I can get better everywhere," Parsons said, speaking from the 2022 NFL Pro Bowl in February. "I can become a better pass rusher. I can become a better LB. Like, anything. I just feel like I'm just out there raw and I was just learning and I grew and I kept getting better and better throughout the year.
"No one's ever perfect. There's always room to grow in many ways to get better."
And that's exactly what McCarthy and the Cowboys are banking on.