Veteran defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence used to say he didn’t care about sacks as long as he felt he was being productive — until Micah Parsons led the Dallas Cowboys in that category en route to becoming the 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
“I let a rookie show me up last year,” Lawrence told the Associated Press. “Shout-out to my boy Micah. But restate my dominance. Let everybody know that I’m coming, how I feel, and the type of respect I’m going to demand when I step on that field.”
Parsons, the former Penn State star and No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 draft, dazzled on the field last year, leading Dallas with 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 30 QB hits.
The 23-year-old appreciates that his club rookie record might help motivate Lawrence, who notched a career-best 14.5 sacks in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he’s planning on letting off the gas this upcoming season.
“I want D-Law to be who he is,” Parsons said. “I’m not taking that away from him. But sorry to tell him, he’s never getting that back. I want him to get all the enjoyment that he possibly can … so he can be a 10-sack guy, great. But if 10 [is] the number, I’m going for 20.”
Lawrence, 30, never had a chance to be as productive as Parsons in 2021. By the time Lawrence returned from a broken foot that cost him 10 games, Parsons had one more sack than DeMarcus Ware’s eight from 2005, which were the most for a Dallas rookie since sacks became official in 1982.
Soon after, Parsons became the first Cowboys rookie in franchise history to reach 10 sacks, and just the 13th linebacker in NFL history to do so as a rookie. Those big-time stats led him to being both a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro selection — a rarity for any rookie.
Meanwhile, Lawrence finished last season with three sacks in seven games, leaving him in single digits for a third consecutive season since signing a $105 million, five-year contract.
The need for both Lawrence and Parsons to produce will be even greater in 2022 with Randy Gregory signing with the Denver Broncos in free agency. One thing is for sure, and that is that Lawrence has a milestone to chase.
“I think him getting someone else that challenges him and plays the same way as him on this defense may even spark the D-Law you saw from way back when,” Parsons said. “I’m just excited. He has something in him that I don’t see many people have, and that’s just a dog.”
Head coach Mike McCarthy is all for having a young player like Parsons help Lawrence recapture those days.
“I think that’s healthy, and that’s really part of the competition,” McCarthy said. “D-Law has got a lot of pelts on the wall. And I think as players move through their careers, they’re always looking for a way to be challenged.”
Reporting by the Associated Press.
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