Micah Parsons studies greatness.
This year’s NFL Defensive Rookie has paid close attention to the Golden State Warriors coach and players’ reactions to their recent tournament. Parsons shares videos of late NBA star Kobe Bryant’s motivations with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He sees how the NFL’s greatest defenders helped elevate their team to the defense of the Super Bowl champions.
So Parsons considers whether he and fellow Cowboys All-Pro Trevon Diggs are the best defensive duo the league has seen. qualifies his answer.
“It’s hard to say we’re the best because I know we’re young and we still make mistakes,” Parsons told USA TODAY Sports over Zoom recently. “It’s hard to put us above (Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman) Aaron Donald, the greatest defensive player in history, with Galen Ramsey.
“So I’m not going to do that yet. But I think we can become them or even better if we learn together and stick with each other.”
more:The Cowboys CB Trayvon Diggs was promoted from younger brother of Stefon Diggs to the King of the NFL interception
Cowboys:After a year of setting records, CB Trivon Diggs wants my successes
Donald’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year career has seen him 98 sacks, 150 fouls and 23 forced stumbles over the course of eight seasons. Ramsey’s 15 interceptions in six years don’t fully reveal the scope of how throws are redirected, as the All-Pro three times have earned a reputation as a cornerstone.
Meanwhile, Parsons has raised every level of Cowboys defense in his rookie year. He generated 13 sacks from a combination of outward impulses and attacked the middle. He made three tackles and made 84 passes – 20 of them lost – as a fullback who displayed remarkable closing speed and elegant sideways movement. To the dismay of the offenders, he expects the film’s recent study and year of experience to significantly expand its effectiveness in the second year.
“I would say last year I was a fish in the water,” Parsons, speaking while promoting “Madden NFL 23,” said he was excited about users being able to send it fast. “I was still developing mentally and as a player, and I think when you’re a rookie for the first time in the league you’re trying to figure out if you belong or not. I think I kind of know where I want to be and where I am in this league.
“I believe in myself and my confidence.”
He believes in Diggs, too.
“That’s what makes a player who he is: his confidence and his willingness to chase the ball,” Parsons said. “I’ve seen a lot of corners not giving up yards, but their teams not winning games. This league is about how many times you can get the ball back, and you get the ball back with rotations. I would take that any day of the week.”
Diggs’ aggressive confidence has proven to be an integral part of the exceptional ball hawks and a detriment to his covering skills. Not only did he intercept 11 to lead the league in 2021, but he also recorded the most swipes of any player in 40 years (Iverson Walls scored 11 in 1981, and Dick “Night Train” has scored in 14 successful interceptions since 1952). Parsons believes possession talent far exceeds the challenges posed by Diggs’ 16.1% lost intervention rate.
“[His risks]are noted more because he holds a solo position,” Parsons said. “People don’t realize that a lot of people are gambling throughout the game. Even I bet. Anytime a quarterback goes out of pocket, it means a defensive lineman bet, because it’s really a held dash. QB should never run out of pocket. He loses running, that means you gambled as a linebacker.
“As a footballer, you have to learn how to pick and choose your battles and what you are going to bet on.”
Parsons said there’s a reason no player has ever collected 11 interceptions in his life.
“Without a doubt I thought he was the best defensive player in the league last year,” Parsons said. “We’ve seen 20 sacks before. But at this age, we haven’t seen anyone reach more than 10 interceptions. So, that’s disrespectful to me, because I think he deserves all the credit in the world and deserves to be picked in the top five corner. If not the best corner in the league.”
Contributing: Mackenzie Salmon, Colin Brennan
Follow Jori Epstein of USA TODAY Sports on Twitter Tweet embed.