Before Micah Parsons was drafted 12th-overall to the Dallas Cowboys, he said his goal was to be Defensive Rookie of the Year in his first season in the NFL.
As the Harrisburg, Pa. native enters his rookie season, Parsons is poised to make an impact on a Cowboys defense that ranked amongst the worst in the NFL in 2020 against the rush (31st in yards allowed, 30th in yards per attempt).
Below is a game-by-game tracker of the Cowboys newest linebacker Micah Parsons in his rookie season.
Week 1 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sept. 9)
In his NFL debut, Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys opened the 2021-22 season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football. The bright lights against the defending Super Bowl Champions were a spotlight to the rookie from Harrisburg. Parsons recorded seven total tackles (three solo tackles) with one pass defended and one quarterback hit on seven-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady. He was third on the defense in total tackles behind CB Anthony Brown (11 TOT, 6 solo) and S Jayron Kearse (11 TOT, 5 solo).
Some NFL analysts cited his performance in pass coverage as a clear weakness in the linebacker’s game. This was highlighted midway through the fourth quarter, as Brady found Leonard Fournette on the sideline on 2nd & 4 to the Dallas 34-yard line with Parsons in coverage. That drive resulted in a Chris Godwin fumble in the end zone recovered by the Cowboys.
Dallas lost the game on a last-second 36-yard field goal from Bucs kicker Ryan Succop, 31-29. The Cowboys are 0-1 on the season.
Week 2 at Los Angeles Chargers (Sept. 19)
The second week of Micah Parsons‘ NFL career comes with a position shift. Due to multiple injuries in the Dallas defensive line, Parsons moved from linebacker to defensive end against the Los Angeles Chargers. The former high school DE recorded his first NFL sack in the game.
The Chargers trailed by just three with five minutes to play and were within the Cowboys 10-yard-line. As QB Justin Herbert dropped back, Parsons pursued and brought him down. The 18-yard loss brought up third down, and the Chargers would ultimately kick a field goal to tie.
Dallas went on to win 20-17 on a last-second 56-yard field goal from K Greg Zuerlein. Parsons finished with two solo tackles and the one sack. He also had 8 pressures in the game which is the most by a rookie since Nick Bosa in 2019.
Week 3 vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Sept. 27)
At this point it is hard to remember Micah Parsons is in his rookie season. In just his third career NFL game and his Monday Night Football debut, Parsons led Dallas in QB pressures with five and hustle stops with three. According to Next Gen Stats, only two defenders have finished with more hustle stops in a game this season (Budda Baker and Jessie Bates both have 4).
He chipped in four combined tackles and 0.5 sacks.
Parsons is playing out of the defensive end position, as the Cowboys continue to deal with injury issues and COVID-19 protocol. And it’s important to note he was playing against Lane Johnson and backup left tackle Andre Dillard.
Dallas handily beat the Eagles 41-21 on Monday Night Football.
Week 4 vs. Panthers (Oct. 3)
Parsons emerged as a favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year through the first four weeks. The combo linebacker/defensive end has really come into his own, putting up four tackles and one sack against the Panthers.
Due to injuries on the line, Parsons has played defensive end for the past two games, but returned to linebacker against Carolina. He played both inside and outside backer.
“It’s the type of thing we talk about, just keep being versatile, just keep moving around, keep the offense guessing, keep having them worry about where I’m at,” Parsons said. “Just trying to be disruptive all throughout the game. We’re going to keep working and keep getting better.”
Dallas improved to 3-1 on the season with the 36-28 win over the Panthers.
Week 5 vs. New York Giants (Oct. 10)
Parsons continued his dominance as he returned to linebacker against the New York Giants. The rookie chipped in eight tackles (6 solo, 2 assists) on Sunday, Oct. 10. Parsons lead the defense in both tackles and QB hits with three.
Parsons averaged 42 defensive snaps per game in his first three starts, but 66 in his last two games.
“Perfectly fine with my workload,” Parsons said according to The Athletic’s Jon Machota. “I’m still playing at a high level. I told coach, ‘Unless I drop dead on that field, don’t take me off.’ I’m young. I just want to be out there.”
Cowboys beat the Giants 44-20 to improve to 4-1 on the season. Next up is a road game against the New England Patriots.
Week 6 at New England Patriots (Oct. 17)
Parsons had one of his quieter games of his stellar rookie season against the Patriots. He chipped in six tackles (3 solo, 3 assisted). At this point in the season, Parsons leads all rookies in pass rush win rate at 26.2%, according to ESPN.
The Cowboys defeated New England 35-29 in overtime. Dallas now has a bye in Week 7.
Week 7 – Bye Week
Week 8 at Minnesota Vikings (Oct. 31)
Against the Vikings, Parsons exploded for 11 total tackles (10 solo) and two stuffs. Four of those tackles were for a loss.
Parsons was largely considered the best player on the Dallas defense against Minnesota thanks to plays in key moments to stop drives. Dallas held the Vikings to 278 yards of offense, and only two field goals in the second half.
Dallas defeated Minnesota 20-16 behind backup QB Cooper Rush and improved to 6-1. The Cowboys turn their attention to the Denver Broncos at home next week.
Week 9 vs. Denver Broncos (Nov. 7)
No one showed up to play the Broncos besides Micah Parsons. The rookie was a shining star in an uncharacteristic loss for the Cowboys.
Parsons compiled 10 total tackles (8 solo, 3 tackles for loss) and 2.5 sacks. His sack total is a career high in his first eight games in the league.
So @MicahhParsons11 has 2.5sks & 3 TFLs and it’s time to start talking about him in the DPOY convo instead of just the DROY one.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) November 7, 2021
Dallas lost to the Broncos 30-16. It was the Cowboys first loss since the season opener against the Buccaneers. Dallas is still atop the NFC East at 6-2; the next closest teams are the Eagles and Giants at 3-6. Next up is another home game against the Falcons in Week 10.
Week 10 vs. Atlanta Falcons (Nov. 14)
For the first time in his rookie season, Parsons forced a fumble on a strip sack of the Falcons QB Matt Ryan. He also accounted for six total tackles in one of the most dominant team defensive performances of the season.
“It feels tremendous,” Parsons told media after the win. “It always feels good to win especially to come back after we didn’t play up to the standard. Today, I think everybody played up to the standard.”
Dallas dismantled Atlanta 43-3 in a bounce-back win after the Bronos lose.
“I don’t think one game will ever define you,” Parsons said. “So, the fact we can bounce back and be dominant, that should put everyone on notice that … we are not to be ‘F’d’ with right now.”
The Cowboys travel to Kansas city next week for a preview of a potential Super Bowl matchup.
Week 11 at Kansas City Chiefs (Nov. 21)
Despite offensive struggles against the Chiefs, the Dallas defense held KC to its second lowest points total of the season allowing just 19 points. Parsons totaled four tackles and sacked Patrick Mahomes twice in the contest.
For the second week in a row, Parsons also forced a fumble. He has eight sacks on the season, the most by a Cowboys rookie since DeMarcus Ware in 2005.
After the game, Parsons and Mahomes traded jerseys. The Cowboys rookie has told the media that his son, Malcolm, is a big Mahomes fan.
after notching two sacks, a forced fumble & three QB hits in Kansas City, Micah Parsons got himself a signed Patrick Mahomes jersey, per his IG account pic.twitter.com/xJxSooAHXO— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 9, 2021
The Cowboys lost to Kansas City 19-9 on the road. Next up, Dallas will host the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day.
Week 12 vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Nov. 25)
Parsons is the star that keeps on shining for the Dallas defense, despite back-to-back losses. Parsons totaled five tackles and a sack against the Raiders on Thanksgiving, but his pressure on Raiders QB Derek Carr went beyond the stats sheer.
He tallied five QB hits and 12 pressures. His sack came at a crucial time in overtime leaving Vegas with a third-and-long, but pass interference penalties allowed the Raiders to pick up a first down on the series.
Parsons nine sacks leads all rookies.
The Cowboys lost on a overtime 29-yard field goal from the Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson. Dallas fell 33-30 in overtime. Next up is a road trip to New Orleans for the 7-4 Cowboys.
Week 13 at New Orleans Saints (Dec. 2)
“Micah Parsons steals the spotlight” littered headlines following the Cowboys game against the Saints. His performance pushed him into DPOY conversation as he became the first player with 70 tackles and 10.0 sacks through his team’s first 12 games since James Harrison in 2010, according to ESPN.
Micah Parsons is the 1st player with 70 tackles and 10.0 sacks through his team’s 1st 12 games since James Harrison in 2010.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 3, 2021
He’s on pace for over 100 tackles and 14.0 sacks this season. The last player to do both was Bruce Smith in 1993. pic.twitter.com/Sj69rry0az
The Cowboys offense struggled to run the ball consistently, falling to the defense to once again keep Dallas in the game. The defense limited the Saints to one touchdown until the final three minutes of the game, and forced four turnovers.
Parsons logged five tackles, one sack and a tackle for loss in the game. He also had two QB hits. Parsons has quickly emerged as the guy to pay attention to in the Dallas defense, but few teams have been able to limit his production this season.
HARRISBURG MEANS MORE: Not only is Micah Parsons hoping to be drafted into the NFL for his family, but for the entire city of Harrisburg.— Allie Berube (@allieberube) April 29, 2021
“I’ve been through hell and back, and it made me into a stronger person today.” @MicahhParsons11
GIVING BACK: https://t.co/O5X4KjsINJ pic.twitter.com/uc3Hu7mFFg
“I mean, let the eyes be on me,” Parsons told the media. “It ain’t going to change my preparation, ain’t going to change nothing I did because I was already ready for the moment. Some people are born for it. I believe I was born for it and I just got to play like that.”
The Cowboys righted the ship after two-straight losses, beating the Saints 27-17. Up next is the first meeting with the Washington Football Team on the road at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Week 14 at Washington Football Team (Dec. 12)
It has quickly become apparent, Micah Parsons is not only the Defensive Rookie of the Year, but possibly the Defensive Player of the Year. Against the Washington Football Team, Parsons strip sacked Taylor Heinicke. The loose ball was recovered by Dorance Armstrong and returned for a 37 yard touchdown. Dallas led 18-0 at that point; it was Parsons 11th sack of the year and third forced fumble.
With a strip-sack resulting in a Cowboys TD, Micah Parsons has now recorded a sack in 6 straight games (12.0 and counting this season)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 12, 2021
The only rookie to have a longer streak was Jevon Kearse in 1999, when he had 1+ sack in 8 straight games and set the rookie sack record at 14.5
His day wasn’t done there. He chipped in another sack, and three total tackles. Parsons continues to showcase his diverse skillset lining up at both defensive end and inside linebacker.
So when does Kellen Moore let Micah Parsons show he can run the football too??? 😂😂 #renaissanceman— Allie Berube (@allieberube) December 12, 2021
Dallas held on to beat Washington 27-20. The Cowboys improve to 9-4 and lead the NFC East with just four games to play. Next up is a road trip to play the Giants; Dallas beat New York 44-20 back on October 10.
Week 15 at New York Giants (Dec. 19)
Micah Parsons’ streak of consecutive games with a sack ended against the Giants in Week 15. His six-straight games ended in the win over the Giants on the road. He finished with one tackle and a pass breakup in New York.
“[Streaks] come and go, just like anything,” Parsons said. “That’s the beautiful thing about life. I have next week to start a new streak. That’s another six weeks I’m looking forward to.”
The Cowboys improved to 10-4 with the 21-6 win over the Giants. After Week 15, Parsons was named a starter in the 2022 Pro Bowl as a rookie. He is the first Cowboys rookie to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot in 2016.
Week 16 vs. Washington Football Team (Dec. 26)
Parsons continued his dominance of division rival Washington getting his 13th sack of the season. He combined for three total tackles with two quarterback hits.
His performance was good enough for many to declare him Defensive Rookie of the Year, although the award isn’t given until just before the Super Bowl.
Dallas beat Washington 56-14 on Dec. 26 with just two games left in the regular season. The Cowboys did clinch a playoff spot when the 49ers lost to the Titans on Thursday , and clinched the division on Sunday afternoon.
Week 17 vs. Arizona Cardinals (Jan. 2)
Week 17 was another week where Micah Parsons shined despite the rest of Dallas struggling. He had five tackles, two for loss, plus two QB hits and one pass defended.
Dallas did lose 25-22 loss to the Cardinals.
Week 18 at Philadelphia Eagles (Jan. 8)
The Wednesday before the regular season finale, Parsons tested positive for COVID-19 and was out for Saturday’s game against the Eagles.
“I feel like I let me team down and Dallas Cowboys nation,” Parsons wrote. “I’ll be back better than ever!! I’m only going to be more hungry!”
Parsons finished his rookie regular season with 13 sacks, 84 total tackles (64 solo, 20 assisted) and 20 tackles for loss. He compiled 30 quarterback hits and three passes defended.
The Cowboys will host the 49ers in the first round on Wild Card Weekend on Sunday, Jan. 16 at 4:30 p.m.
Parsons grew up in Harrisburg, Pa. where he wrestled, played basketball and football. He went on to play two seasons at Penn State, where he was asked to switch from defensive end to linebacker. After his sophomore season, he chose to opt out of the 2020 Big Ten football season while the conference debated playing the season amid COVID-19 concerns.
Parsons was drafted 12th-overall in the 2021 NFL Draft to the Dallas Cowboys. Parsons father, Terrence, is a die-hard Cowboys fan, and the LB said his future in the franchise was written in the stars.
Parsons hopes to become the Defensive Rookie of the Year in the 2021-22 NFL season.