By David Helman
FOX Sports Dallas Cowboys Writer
OXNARD, Calif. — You aren’t a big deal until you have your own mode of transportation around training camp.
Consider it unsurprising, then, that Micah Parsons — still only a year removed from his NFL debut — rolled up to his first media session of this 2022 season on an electric scooter.
“Staying off my feet,” he said with a smirk.
Micah Parsons ranks behind Nick Bosa on NFL’s Best Under-25
Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 25 players under the age of 25 and 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa took the top spot. The next defensive player on the list is Cowboys’ sensation Micah Parsons at No. 6. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe are split on whether Bosa should be ranked above Parsons.
Judging from the work Parsons has been doing when he’s on his feet, that shouldn’t be a problem. We’re still firmly in the ramp-up period of training camp, with no pads and little contact. Despite that, all it takes is one look in Parsons’ direction on any given snap to see that he’s picking up exactly where he left off in his stellar rookie campaign.
“Just the way he takes away angles and how he breaks on the football, he’s super instinctive and slippery in the phone booth,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “He just has a lot of natural instinctive playmaking ability. Yeah, he’s very, very impressive.”
At any given moment, the second-year linebacker can be lined up just about anywhere, splitting his time between the middle of the field and either edge of the formation. It’d be unfair to give him too much credit before the pads come on, but it’s evident he presents a problem for any blocker that happens to draw him.
“I’d just say the difference is just everything seems way more slow, calm, collective,” Parsons said. “I have an understanding of what I’m doing, what everyone else is doing. I’m not exhausting extra energy.”
This is an even cooler, more confident version of Parsons than the one who won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year off the strength of 13 sacks and 84 tackles last season.
That’s a terrifying thought, given that Parsons told reporters Friday that he wasn’t always sure what he was doing en route to all those accolades.
“He can play anywhere on the field”
Michael Strahan discusses the unique ability of Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
“I wouldn’t say I had a lot of weaknesses, but just not understanding the full concepts of every defense,” he said. “I was going through growing pains throughout the year, sometimes guessing. But now that I know, and I’ve figured it out, I just feel way more relaxed.”
Take a second to consider that. Parsons burst onto the scene like a football supernova last fall, and he was at least occasionally guessing about his assignments.
If he brings all that same ability to the field in 2022, with a clearer understanding of his responsibilities, the possibilities are endless.
“Last year, I was just trying to earn the respect of my fellow teammates and my fellow players across the league,” he said. “This year I just want to go out there and dominate now.”
It’s an awfully big billing to live up to. Behind the obvious stalwarts such as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, Parsons has the potential to emerge as the brightest young star on this Dallas roster, not to mention one of the biggest names in the NFL.
Simultaneously, it might be on Parsons and the Dallas defense to carry the day during the early going of this season, at least until a new-look Cowboys offense finds its way.
Sounds like a lot of pressure — assuming you buy into the concept, anyway.
From the sounds of it, Parsons is more worried about his own designs than anyone else’s.
“I don’t believe in pressure. Pressure is non-existent,” he said. “You have expectations for yourself and what you want to achieve. And that is personal. I think pressure might be other people’s aspects and how they view you. If that can get you off your game, you are probably in the wrong sport.”
If we’ve learned anything about Micah Parsons these last 15 months, that’s definitely not the case.
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The Cowboys went through their third unpadded practice Friday. Here are a few additional notes from the training camp.
It felt like an awfully long wait for some fireworks at camp, but undrafted receiver T.J. Vasher delivered.
The Cowboys worked through red-zone situations Friday, which tends to create potential for show-stopping moments.
On the last rep of practice, Vasher brought the thunder with a one-handed circus catch in the end zone. Listed at 6-6, Vasher used every inch of his frame to sky up over the top of second-year corner Kelvin Joseph to haul it in.
It was a meaningful moment for Vasher, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021 but missed the entire year with a non-football injury.
Prior to Friday, he said the last time he had such an exhilarating moment was in his final season at Texas Tech, almost two years ago.
“I haven’t felt that feeling in a long time, but it felt good. It’s kind of indescribable,” he said.
There won’t be a ton of room on the back end of the Cowboys’ receiver depth chart, so every favorable impression counts.
Vasher might have made the play of the day, but it doesn’t change the fact the Dallas defense continues to boss these early practices.
The Cowboys’ quarterbacks were frustrated throughout the morning, for the most part, as the defensive secondary didn’t give them many good windows.
Trevon Diggs nabbed his first interception of camp when he cut under a pass from Prescott. Anthony Brown managed two more pass break ups in the end zone, and safety Jayron Kearse snagged an interception on a desperation attempt during the offense’s “Hail Mary” reps.
Even Leighton Vander Esch got in on the action, as the fifth-year linebacker broke on a shallow pass Prescott tried to throw back across his body. Vander Esch beat tight end Sean McKeon to the ball and tipped it into the air, but just missed finishing the play.
CeeDee Lamb has played two NFL seasons, racked up 2,037 receiving yards and made a Pro Bowl appearance.
The hope around this organization is that he’s about to blossom into one of the best young receivers in football. Somehow, he’s still the youngest member of this year’s receiver corps.
“I just found out today that I was the youngest in the room,” Lamb said. “I’m still the youngest in the room. And this is my third year in the league.”
Of course, you’d expect Lamb to be younger than vets Michael Gallup, Noah Brown and James Washington. It’s still wild to note Lamb is younger than all the Cowboys’ first- and second-year receivers, including Jalen Tolbert, who celebrated his 23rd birthday just six weeks before Lamb this spring.
Weird stat, but it doesn’t ultimately matter. Despite his age, Lamb has plenty of NFL expertise to share with his slightly older teammates, and he plans to do just that.
“Them guys, they can come to me with anything,” he said. “Any question they have, I want them to understand that I’m here.”
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports, providing insight and analysis on the NFL’s most visible franchise. Prior to joining FOX, David spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website, DallasCowboys.com. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State.
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