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Micah Parsons strengthens case as NFL's best with unstoppable performance to torment Zach WIlson's New York Jets
Micah Parsons produced a frightening performance to steer the Dallas Cowboys to victory over the New York Jets; Week Two continues on Monday night with the New Orleans Saints at the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Updated: 18/09/23 1:41pm
Micah Parsons is the NFL's best defensive player. He might not be far off Patrick Mahomes as the league's best player, full stop.
On Sunday he took a sledgehammer to the New York Jets and their Plan B, clobbering the dingy prospect of a Zach Wilson reincarnation to the sight of helpless resistance and a potentially evaporating Championship dream. In doing so, he would amplify the nightmarish reality of life as a ready-to-win team with your four-time MVP quarterback sidelined for the season.
Parsons sat last on the list of ideal suitors for Wilson's first game as starter since taking over for the injured Aaron Rodgers. As he would for most young quarterbacks desperately trying to find their way.
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He is Dan Quinn's launch code to game-destructing finality, shattering the constraints of positional football as the multi-role assassin and reconnaissance man; if the Dallas Cowboys pass rusher isn't getting to the quarterback, it tends to be because he is teeing up a teammate too.
Parsons was good for four tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, four quarterback hits, one pass breakup, a forced fumble and recovery and six pressures among which he had a hand in two of Wilson's interceptions during a 30-10 win for the Cowboys.
He has now managed two-plus sacks in 28.6 per cent of career games since being drafted 12th overall out of Penn State in 2021, marking the highest by any player in NFL history ahead of Hall of Famer Reggie White's 21.6 per cent, per NFL Research.
"When I talk about Defensive Player of the Year, I don't look at the subject of the award," Parsons told reporters. "I look at the subject and when I say I want to be the best player in the NFL, so whatever comes with that. I don't think just qualifying myself as just a defensive player - I think I'm a Most Valuable Player."
He represents every modern defensive coordinator's dream such is the luxury he affords them to rush four men, roll their seven-man coverage disguises and doll up pressure packages with stunts as an efficient substitute for blitzing. He is the fastest, the smartest, the most athletic man on the field, with the bend to go full Valentino Rossi off the edge, the snap anticipation to leave offensive lineman playing in slow motion and the range to plug every gap across a front seven.
Quinn and Aden Durde have made him their glistening centre-piece.
For his first sack of the night, Parsons lined up as a 5-tech off the left tackle's shoulder on third-and-five, exploding at the snap and leveraging the extra width and angle to feint engagement with a subtle ghost move towards his opponent's pads before transitioning into a swim move and slaloming inside to pummel Wilson. Quinn had dialled up simulated pressure with two linebackers filling the A gap at the line of scrimmage, retreating both at the snap to give Parsons his green light to slide across and pierce the vacant space.
For the forced fumble and recovery, which Parsons initially thought he had returned for a touchdown, he lined up as a 6i-tech splitting the tackle and tight end, this time underlining the art of design diagnosis as he refused to be sold on the fake jet-sweep handoff and instead shadowed tackle Duane Brown on his kick outside. From there he stiff-armed CJ Uzomah to become the first Cowboys jersey to swarm Dalvin Cook before ripping the ball and forcing the turnover. Elite lateral quickness, veteran play recognition, frightening upper-body strength and balance in stride and, yet again, a ruthless finishing ability.
His second sack was the most borderline-should-be-unfair of the lot, Parsons aligning as a 5-tech off the left tackle once more before producing another ludicrous first-step burst at the snap and maintaining speed as he got skinny to squeeze inside for the sack.
"Man, I'm just hungry," Parsons explained. "To me, it don't matter where I'm at, I'm coming. I don't care if I'm gassed out, my lungs hurt, mind over matter. I think every time I'm out there, I seize every opportunity, unlike some guys that take this opportunity for granted. I take this extremely to the heart. This organisation changed my life so I'm just trying to give everything I have back to the fans, to Mr. (Jerry) Jones and all of my teammates."
A week earlier Parsons had punctured the interior of the New York Giants' offensive line during his side's 40-0 shutout win, one play seeing him line up as a 4-tech directly over the offensive tackle before using his initial engagement to bounce back and recharge his feet to catapult himself inside for a sack on a bruised Daniel Jones.
He went on to manhandle a purpose-built double-team in which he ploughed two Giants back single-handedly to carve an avenue inside for the 5-tech Osa Odighizuwa. Call it an assisted sack.
He beefed up slightly in the offseason in preparation for a more full-time role as a defensive end, though Quinn continues to rip up paper definitions in favour of maximising his best player's arsenal of weapons.
'Welcome back, Chris Jones'
From one game-wrecker to another, Chris Jones showed zero ring-rust as he returned from his contract holdout to star for the Kansas City Chiefs in their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jones recorded 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits to blunt a frustrated Jaguars offense, which failed to maximise three Chiefs turnovers.
"Welcome back, Chris Jones! We missed you," said Sky Sports NFL's Jason Bell. "They lined him up everywhere, they took advantage on the outside against the rookie tackle.
"He came through on big plays. When you talk about great players it's about what they do on big down and distances.
"They're happy he's back. Look at how he bends, being that size but being that flexible to bend and turn and then accelerate, that's a special skill."
A welcome back was also a stark welcome to the real NFL for Jaguars rookie offensive tackle Anton Harrison.
"He is a big man but he's actually quite agile," added Sky Sports NFL's Phoebe Schecter. "The way he's able to defeat his blocks and move on the run, he's able to change direction, they are some of the things that make him so special.
"Then he's so physical, he's like a dog after a bone, he does not quit. When you have that as the heartbeat of your defense, you can't lose!"
Hail Mary drama!
For one half of football, we were treated to the Russell Wilson of old (sort of) as he orchestrated a commanding lead for the Denver Broncos against the Washington Commanders. You blinked and the Wilson of last season was back, with the Broncos throwing the game away in the process.
With the final three seconds ticking down he heaved a 50-yard Hail Mary pass downfield, the ball ricocheting between bodies Happy Gilmore final-putt style before finally landing in the hands of Denver's Brandon Johnson to cut the lead to two as the clock showed zero.
Needing a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime, Wilson watched as his pass intended for Courtland Sutton was broken up by Benjamin St-Juste in the end zone, the Washington man perhaps fortunate to avoid being flagged for pass interference.
The Broncos would slip to 0-2, Sean Payton left to ponder the sizeable task of redirecting this team.
Never quiet in New York, is it? Brian Daboll has multiple reasons to find himself sleep-deprived, be it through stress or adrenaline.
Entering off their 40-0 defeat in Week One, the Giants find themselves trailing 20-0 at halftime, marking the second-most unanswered points a team has allowed in the Super Bowl era behind only the 1978 Colts side.
The Giants went on to put up 31 points in the second half, sealing a franchise-record comeback on Graham Gano's decisive field goal.
Nacua's rookie record
This is now a Puka Nacua column.
The Los Angeles Rams wide receiver made 15 catches for 147 yards during his side's 30-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, breaking the single-game record for rookie receptions while following up his 10 catches for 119 yards in Week One for the most by a rookie over the first two games of his career.
"He's a stud," said Rams coach Sean McVay said. "The game makes sense to him. Physically and mentally tough. Works really hard. He's very inquisitive. He asks a lot of questions, and he's got great guys to be able to lean on."
There was yet further encouragement for the Indianapolis Colts as rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson shone in Shane Steichen's offense in the early stages of his side's win over the Houston Texans.
Victory didn't come without its setbacks though as Richardson was forced to exit the game with a concussion, paving the way for Gardner Minshew to enter and look confident on his way to 171 passing yards for a touchdown.
Elsewhere in Cincinnati, Joe Burrow admitted there remained some concern over the calf injury that kept him sidelined for much of the summer as the Bengals fell to 0-2 in defeat to the Baltimore Ravens.
"I'm not sure how it's going to feel the next couple of days. It's pretty sore right now, but no telling how it's going to feel, so I think we're going to take it day by day," said Burrow, having seemingly re-aggravated the issue during Sunday's game.
In the same game Ravens receiver Odell Beckham Jr exited with an ankle injury in the second half, while Giants running back Saquon Barkley suffered a leg injury in the fourth quarter of his team's comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Week Two continues on Monday night with the New Orleans Saints at the Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers - live on Sky Sports NFL.