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The Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons to be a playmaker for their defense. Dallas didn’t expect it to be at the defensive end position.
Micah Parsons entered the NFL with the potential to be a big-time playmaker from the linebacker position. Just one week into his professional career the Cowboys are already looking for him to wreck the opposing offense from a different position.
Dallas plans to give Parsons significant snaps at defensive end in their Week 2 matchup against the Chargers are losing both Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Lawrence broke his foot during practice this week and will miss multiple weeks of action while Gregory is on the COVID-19 list which rules him out for Sunday’s game against Los Angeles.
The idea of moving an outside linebacker to a rush-end spot isn’t unconventional, but it’s a big mental adjustment for an inexperienced player like Parsons. He has the physical tools to wreak havoc off the edge, but his lack of polish as an edge rusher could make life difficult for him against the Chargers’ talented offensive line.
The move to defensive end shouldn’t be a permanent one for Parsons. The Cowboys are blessed with strong depth at linebacker while they’re woefully short of options along the defensive line. As soon as players like Lawrence and Gregory return to action it’s likely that Parsons will return to his natural outside linebacker spot.
In a strange way, experiencing a lot of snaps at defensive end early in his career could help Parsons become a more complete defender in the long run. If he shows Dallas officials that he can become a top-tier pass rusher on obvious passing downs it will significantly add to his value as a player. He might take some short-term lumps going up against top-tier tackles but adding versatility to his game should aid his development over the long haul.
It’s still a negative for the Cowboys’ chances of knocking off the Chargers on Sunday. Pressuring Justin Herbert must be a key part of Dallas’ defensive game plan. Parsons is far from anything resembling a finished product as an edge-rusher. The former Penn State star will need to find a way to make his athleticism pop from that spot if his defense is going to shine.