The Dallas Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries early in the season, but there's hope their first-round pick can help in one area — at a different position than he normally plays.
Micah Parsons, the 12th overall pick in April, is expected to chip in at defensive end in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers to help buttress against some recent personnel losses. Without DeMarcus Lawrence (broken foot) and Randy Gregory (COVID list), the Cowboys are shorthanded.
At roughly 240 pounds, Parsons might be big for a linebacker, but that's on the smaller side for a rush end. But compared to the league's smallest edge players, he's not a shrimp either.
And this isn't exactly unfamiliar duty for Parsons. He was a high-school defensive end who was moved to linebacker to take advantage of his rare speed. But even at Penn State — especially as a freshman — Parsons frequently rushed the passer. He had 6.5 sacks in 26 career games for the Nittany Lions.
The 1-0 Chargers allowed two sacks in Week 1 against a strong Washington Football Team front four. Quarterback Justin Herbert was hit three times in that game, with one hit causing a fumble.
But the highlight was rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater keeping Washington's Chase Young in check. Perhaps Slater and Parsons will lock horns for the first time. Despite playing together in the Big Ten at the same time, they never faced off against one another.
How this affects the rest of the Cowboys' defense
In the Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Parsons played more of a traditional linebacker role but did rush the passer on 13 of his 51 defensive snaps. He was credited with one of the Cowboys' two QB hits on Tom Brady in that game to go with seven tackles and one pass defended.
It was Parsons' first real game, not counting preseason, in more than 600 days. He opted out of the 2020 college season and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft. The Cowboys traded back from No. 10 overall and selected Parsons.
This role change likely means we'll see more from Cowboys linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, who did not start the first game and were limited to 16 and 14 snaps, respectively.
The Cowboys spent a first-round pick on Vander Esch and a second-rounder on Smith, both of whom have battled health issues and/or inconsistency in recent years.