Both are reasons why the Harrisburg, Pa., native, former college football All-American, and reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is one of Pro Football Focus’ 25 players to know under 25 years of age.
The Dallas Cowboys linebacker checked in at No. 6 on the countdown released by PFF earlier this week.
“Parsons was simply sensational in his rookie season,” Trevor Sikkema writes. After much debate about what position he would play — defensive end or off-ball linebacker — Parsons not only played both but thrived at each with an 87.6 overall defensive grade and a 93.0 pass-rush grade.
“When you remember that he opted out of his final season at Penn State and that 2021 was his first real football action in two years, it makes Parsons’ rookie campaign even more impressive.”
Parsons played in 16 games as a rookie. He netted 84 tackles (64 solos, 20 for loss), and 13 sacks. He also had 30 quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Reference.
San Francisco 49ers end Nick Bosa led the PFF list. The top five included, in order, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, Bucs tackle Tristan Wirfs, and Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson.
Parsons’ ride continues
Parsons was a standout for Penn State even though he wasn’t a starter in 2018.
Then, he was dominant in 2019 during his second as a linebacker in then Lions defensive coordinator Brent Pry’s scheme. All told, he was the Big Ten’s linebacker of the year, a consensus All-American, and won the MVP of the Cotton Bowl.
The 2020 season figured to be Parson’s best yet in blue and white. But, the Big Ten’s initial decision to cancel that season because of the coronavirus pandemic led to an opt-out. It robbed the defender of his junior season and Penn State fans of the chance to see what many believed would be his best season yet.
No matter, the Cowboys jumped at the chance to pick him with the No. 12 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Parsons went on to play 84 percent of Dallas’ defenses snaps in the fall of that year.
Now, he’s gearing up for round two in blue and metallic silver.
“I have to act like I got amnesia,” Parsons told NFL Network. “Forget everything I had last year and kind of restart and restructure everything. I’m gonna still put in the same work and try to do better than I did last year. I just have to erase everything I did, don’t let anything get to my head and just go to work.”