FLORHAM PARK — Micah Parsons is one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL to date. Now, he’s a major problem the New York Jets have to solve.
In two seasons as a rotating weapon for the Cowboys, Parsons has averaged over 13 sacks while winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, as well as a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year. In one game in 2023, the former Penn State product had a sack, two quarterback hits, and was the leading cog in a defense that pitched a 40-0 shutout over a division rival.
“You can’t slow him down now. You watch the tape and talk about a guy that jumps off and seeing him grow as a player is… they have done an outstanding job with him.,” Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “He’s done an outstanding job himself, and he’s somebody that, he can totally wreck a game, so everybody has to know where he is at all times.”
New York’s problem becomes even more difficult when Aaron Rodgers isn’t the quarterback. The four-time NFL MVP is 8-2 against the Star with a 3-0 record on the road. He has continuously been a thorn in the side of most Cowboy fans.
He’s not going to be playing on Sunday though. The aura that comes from Rodgers now turns its eye to Zach Wilson to see if he can pull off a major upset against both the daunting Dallas defense and their dynamic playmaker.
“This defense in general is going to be a good challenge for us as an offense. Obviously, a good front, a good linebacking core, and some good secondary players as well, so I’m excited, it’s going to be a good challenge,” Wilson explained. “I think Micah was in my same draft class, so really cool, I’ll get to see him again.”
Wilson and the Jets offense will need to know where Parsons is at all times. There is a method to getting in front of him though. Like the other all-time greats before him, Parsons has a problem when you run directly at him. Before the New York Giants fell on their sword last Sunday, they were averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
You can run on this Dallas defense.
Luckily for the Jets, running the ball is expected to be their strength for the remainder of the year. Against Buffalo on Monday, they averaged over six yards a carry with Breece Hall leading the way with 127 yards on the ground. Offensive linemen like Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Connor McGovern all had good run grades following the surprising 22-16 overtime win.
Most fans know that players like Becton should be able to succeed against a quick Cowboys defense, especially on the ground. Solving the Parsons problem is an entirely different story even if they are confident going into another game week.
“I feel I match up pretty well with everyone in the NFL,” Becton told AMNY. The former first-round talent felt “great” after playing in his first football game in over two years.
The Becton-Parsons battle on the line will be a good indicator of how well the Jets’ former first-round pick has done to improve over the offseason. Becton has struggled with speed rushers before, and Parsons has one of the fastest get-offs in the game. Whenever he lines up, the Jets need to be sure to have a plan in place for that speed.
It certainly looks like they believe they can limit a player of Parson’s skill.
“We just have to focus on what we have to do and nothing changes in that way. We have great faith in this offense, great faith in (Nathaniel) Hackett, Zach (Wilson), the offensive line, our running game, the receivers, all of them,” Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said.
Can the Jets pull off an upset in Arlington on Sunday? The first key to doing so will be to make sure Parsons is limited in his chances to make game-wrecking plays.
Because as we’ve seen over his first two years, he will make them when given the chance.