The notion of a do-it-all player is largely a cliche and usually a myth. But rookie linebacker Micah Parsons was the first-round pick of the Cowboys thanks to his extreme versatility. Stuffing the run, chasing down the passer, blitzing off the edge, dropping back into coverage, north-and-south speed, sideline-to-sideline range. He’s still a month away from his NFL regular season debut, but Parsons is already proving that doing his job means doing a whole bunch of jobs.
And the idea that opposing offenses will never know what’s coming from Parsons makes him a dangerous weapon in waiting.
“You got to be able to do more than one way to win,” Parsons told reporters Monday. “You can’t just run the ball all game to win. You got to learn to pass. So, being a versatile player makes it a challenge for anybody to stop it, for anybody to scheme up. You want to be kind of like a queen on the [chess] board. You don’t ever want to be a rook, where you can only go straight, or you can only go sideways. You want to be able to go diagonal, and I think that’s what makes the queen so strong. And I just kind of want to be the queen of linebackers… but a king, in a way.”
Veteran wideout Amari Cooper has long been a chess aficionado and perhaps the team’s unofficial grandmaster since coming over from the Raiders in 2018. It didn’t take long this spring for the 22-year-old to find a seat across from Cooper at the board.
Dallas Cowboys rookie @MicahhParsons11 called out veteran Amari Cooper to a chess match.
The two played. Amari won. And he enjoyed putting Micah in checkmate.
(via @AmariCooper9) pic.twitter.com/3yRz5zweTm
— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) June 8, 2021
The rookie went back and made the necessary adjustments in short order, taking Cooper down two days later.
Come for Cowboys rookie LB @MicahhParsons11 beating Amari Cooper in chess, stay for Micah’s ruthless celebration at Coop’s expense pic.twitter.com/xFzxrUXnGK
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) June 10, 2021
Parsons may not necessarily want “The Queen of Linebackers” to become a nickname that sticks, but there are lot of similarities between Parsons’s preferred style of gridiron play and his favorite chess piece.
“I like to go after the quarterback. I like to make big plays. But at the same time, I like to be in coverage because you could get a big payoff: a pick or you could strip the wide receiver. You can always find a way to disrupt the game, no matter which one it is. So I kind of like doing it all.”
Parsons enjoyed an auspicious preseason debut last week in Canton. On his very first series at the pro level, the rookie recovered a Steelers fumble. It was a thrilling return to full-speed action for Parsons, who hadn’t played in an actual football game since the 2019 Cotton Bowl.
That initial rush of success made it even more difficult for Parsons to have to leave the field with the other starters on limited snap counts.
“Yeah, it was hard, but they always remind me it’s a long way to go,” Parsons explained. “I was like, ‘I just got my feet wet.’ I said, ‘Can I get, like, one more?’ They’re like, ‘Nah, it’s over.’”
The former Nittany Lion is showing an insatiable hunger to be around the ball, even in practice sessions. A preview clip from the debut episode of Hard Knocks: The Dallas Cowboys shows that… and the impression it’s already making on teammates like Dak Prescott.
A new clip from NFL Films and “Hard Knocks,” this one of Cowboys rookie LB Micah Parsons impressing Dak Prescott early in training camp. pic.twitter.com/yPduzbFG4u
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) August 7, 2021
Cowboys fans are no doubt eager to get the season-long chess match underway, to turn Parsons loose and have the results count. But the rookie knows patience is a strategic gambit, too, and he says he wouldn’t trade the extra time to prep for Tampa. He knows the month between now and the season opener will only help him study his opponent and refine his attack.
Just like a lion in the jungle. Or a queen on the chessboard.
“You could go out there right now, make some mistakes, and learn. But why, when you’ve got this great opportunity to get better every day, and you’ve got this great opportunity to go out there in these preseason games and make those mistakes now? Because you got the Super Bowl champs Week 1. That’s the game where I’d like to make no mistakes.”
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