With 21.5 sacks through 17 weeks of the NFL season, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt has an obvious claim to win Defensive Player of the Year honors at the end of the season.
Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons has a solid case as well and is the most obvious challenger to Watt’s run at the award.
Parsons has 85 tackles, 13 sacks, 30 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles during his rookie season in Dallas. He still has a chance to surpass Jevon Kearse’s rookie record of 14.5 sacks in a season, though it will take him one additional game to accomplish the feat. Parsons has played multiple roles for Dallas this season as well and succeeded in all areas.
It’s that versatility that Parsons said would be the backbone of his case for the award.
“I take complete pride in being the most versatile player in the NFL,” Parsons said, via Jori Epstein of USA Today. “I think I would put myself up there with the elite guys around the league in terms of impacting the game. It definitely hasn’t been a one-man job. The DBs help me a lot being able to hold the receivers so that way I can get the pressure and sacks and things like that. (But) I think I do a lot of very different things on the defense that change the game.”
Parsons is seemingly a shoo-in to win Defensive Rookie of the Year for his campaign with the Cowboys. His season has already vaulted him into the conversation of most disruptive defensive players in the NFL. It seems far-fetched that Parsons would be able to surpass Watt to win the award this season. But playing as he has this year will keep him in the running for the award for many seasons to come.