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Sports ‘Something scary’: Cowboys envision creative role for first-round NFL draft pick Micah Parsons

10:41  30 april  2021
10:41  30 april  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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FRISCO, Texas — The key word, Jerry Jones says, is pressure.

“Pressure, pressure, pressure,” the Cowboys owner and general manager told a handful of reporters in the bowels of the Star late Thursday night. “Same kind of thought you’d have if you were looking at the best outside pass rusher.

“Because he might be.”

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Leave it to the Cowboys owner to find the perfect spin.

The Cowboys found a way to explain why Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons offers them great value with the 12th overall pick, the combination of a space tackler and pass rusher bettering a defense that ranked second to worst against the run in 2020. Parsons’ 4.39-second 40-yard dash at his pro day projects well for a defense that sought speed to join its length. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, building off his Seattle Legion of Boom days and run as Falcons head coach, will scheme creatively to maximize Parsons’ upside.

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Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons holds a team jersey after the was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys with the 12th pick in the NFL football draft Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. © Tony Dejak, AP Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons holds a team jersey after the was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys with the 12th pick in the NFL football draft Thursday, April 29, 2021, in Cleveland.

And yet, the Cowboys will just barely acknowledge: The prospects among whom they hoped and felt fairly confident they could celebrate with the 10th overall pick were snatched just before them. Seven selections into the NFL draft, every defender remained available. There was reason for pause when the Carolina Panthers selected South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn at 8, but Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II was no mere consolation prize.

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Then the discussed-but-feared scenario arrived: The Broncos, at 9, eschewed the pair of talented quarterbacks remaining and the myriad of offensive weapons. Welcome, Surtain, to Denver.

The Cowboys circled back with NFC East rival Philadelphia on an earlier-week trade consideration. The Eagles assured they would draft offense. Two picks later, Parsons’ phone lit up indicating the Star, he said.

“I started going crazy,” Parsons said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. Don’t play with me like that.’”

The Cowboys had decided they weren’t willing to play with Parsons’ value any further. They considered a couple more first-round trade-downs but ultimately liked the dynamic and versatile tape Parsons put together in 2018 and 2019, when he collected 109 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles. Parsons reckons he’s raw—and eager, at that, to develop under Quinn’s tutelage. But beside linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, Parsons assures: “It could be something scary.”

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“He can play the SAM, the MIKE and the WILL positions,” McCarthy said of Parsons’ flexibility across linebacker spots. “Whether is he covered up in the bubble, playing to the open guard or playing the [defensive pass rush specialist], he gives us the multiple looks to get in and out of different personnel.

“He is a good matchup player, too, with his speed and ability to cover. He is a great piece.”

The Cowboys defense needs great pieces and great prices over the next three to four years. That, as well, factored into their decision.

Already, thanks to a compensatory pick and a “gut-wrenching” 6-10 2020 season, the Cowboys had amassed four slots in the top 100 selections. Trading down two picks with Philadelphia—the Eagles took Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, then the Bears traded with the Giants to grab quarterback Justin Fields at 12—the Cowboys acquired a fifth selection in the top 100 pick, the Eagles’ third-rounder at 84 overall.

Cowboys management considered Dak Prescott’s four-year, $160 million contract; DeMarcus Lawrence’s five years at $105 million and Ezekiel Elliott’s five years at $90 million, to name a few.

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“We need draft picks,” executive vice president of player personnel Stephen Jones said. “We need draft picks that can come in here and really make a difference. … We need to just keep steadying the boat and make the picks.”

The Cowboys are scheduled to be on the clock Friday for picks 44, 75, 84 and 99.

Parsons doesn’t come out without on- and off-field risks. The Cowboys were wary about assessing players who opted out of the 2020 NFL season but felt at least more comfortable with any rust that needs shaking off at pick 12 than they had at 10. Off the field, too, Parsons has faced allegations for hazing at Penn State. When asked about them by phone Thursday night, he said the allegations were “false” and “I’m not a character concern at all.”

“I’m going to keep becoming a better father and person every day,” Parsons said. “Not only for myself but for my entire family. And Cowboys Nation, now I got to represent them every day too.”

On the field, Parsons vows to represent the Cowboys as a fast, physical and instinctual player. Going against the “best offense in America” in practice will only deepen those instincts, he believes. McCarthy hopes his burst will prove contagious.

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  Dallas Cowboys draft picks 2021: Round-by-round selections Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the Dallas Cowboys.Round 1 (No. 12 overall, from 49ers through Dolphins and Eagles) - Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: Dallas drops two spots after missing out on Jaycee Horn (Panthers) and Patrick Surtain II (Broncos) to add Parsons to what was the worst defense in franchise history in 2020. With Sean Lee retiring and former first-round LB Leighton Vander Esch possibly entering his final season with the team, Jerry Jones and Co. reload at linebacker – and Parsons might arguably be the most impactful defender in this draft.

Is Parsons the speed and energy McCarthy requested earlier in the week?

“Bingo,” the head coach said after Round 1. “I don’t know how to say it better. He plays the game we want to play on defense and the way we’re going to play defense. … We just added a player that is outstanding at going and taking the football away.

“He’s an impact player.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Something scary’: Cowboys envision creative role for first-round NFL draft pick Micah Parsons

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