The current NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year took a close look at the Golden State Warriors’ coaches and players’ reactions to their latest championship. Parsons swapped videos of late NBA star Kobe Bryant’s inspiration with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. And he looks at how some of the greatest defenders in the NFL helped his team defend a Super Bowl champion.
So Parsons considers whether he and fellow Cowboys All-Pro Trayvon Diggs are the best defensive pairing the league has seen. He qualifies his answer.
From NFL play to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.
“It’s hard to say we’re the best because I know we’re young and we still make mistakes,” Parsons recently told USA Today Sports on Zoom. “It’s hard to keep us with (Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman) Aaron Donald, the greatest defensive player in history, Jalen Ramsey.
“So I won’t do it yet. But I think we can become them or even better if we learn and stick together.”
MORE: Cowboys CB Trayvon Diggs moves from Stephen Diggs’ younger brother to NFL interception king
Cowboys: After record-setting year, CB Trayvon Diggs wants to ‘stack my success’
Donald’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year career includes 98 sacks, 150 tackles for losses and 23 forced fumbles in eight seasons. Ramsey’s 15 interceptions in six years haven’t fully disclosed how he throws redirected, three-time All-Pro earning a reputation as a shutdown corner.
Meanwhile, Parsons elevated each level of the Cowboys’ defense in their rookie year. He produced 13 sacks by combining the outer rush and attacking in the middle. He forced three fumbles and made 84 tackles—20 of them for losses—as a coverage linebacker who demonstrated eye-popping speed and sleek lateral movement. To frustrate crimes, he hopes that Year 2 of recent film studies and a year of experience will drastically increase his efficacy.
“I would just say last year that I was a fish in the water,” Parsons said while promoting “Madden NFL 23,” in which he is excited about its potential to send users blitzing. “I was still growing a lot mentally and as a player, and I think when you’re first joining the league, you’re trying to see if you belong. I think I know where I want to be and where I am in this league.
“I believe in myself and my confidence.”
He also believes in Diggs.
“That’s what the player is about: his confidence, his willingness to go behind the ball,” Parsons said. “I’ve noticed a lot of corner yards don’t leave, but their teams aren’t winning games. This league is about how many times you can get the ball back, and how many times you can get the ball back with a turnover. I can take it any day of the week.”
Diggs’ aggressive confidence has proved integral to his exceptional ball-hawking and detrimental to his coverage skills. His 11 interceptions not only led the league in 2021, but also marked the most swipes by any player in 40 years (Everson Walls had 11 in 1981, Dick “Night Train” Lane’s 14-interception record since 1952) was retained). Parsons believes the talents outweigh the challenges posed by Diggs’ 16.1% missed tackle rate.
“His (risk) is over-pointed because he has such a one-off condition,” Parsons said. “What people don’t realize is that a lot of people gamble throughout the game. I gamble too. Whenever the quarterback gets out of pocket, it means a defensive lineman gambles, because it’s actually There is an implicit rush. The QB should never escape the pocket. Any time a running back goes loose, it means you took a gamble as a linebacker.
“As a football player, you have to learn to pick and choose your battles and what to gamble.”
Parsons said there is a reason no player had collected the first 11 interceptions in his lifetime.
“Undoubtedly I thought he was the best defensive player in the league last year,” Parsons said. “We’ve seen 20 sacks before. But in this era, we’ve never seen anyone reach more than 10 interceptions. So it’s insulting to me, because I think he deserves all the credit in the world and the best in the league. If not a corner, it deserves to be named as a top-five corner.”