Dallas Cowboys two-time First-Team All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons possesses a dogged, unrelenting focus toward his personal of goal of becoming " ." However, he also is more than happy to set up shop at training camp in Oxnard, California like a college professor during office hours and make time to mentor some of the Cowboys' newest rookies now that he is entering his third NFL season. Two of the players who have been picking his brain in training camp are two of Dallas' top three picks in the 2023 NFL Draft: first-round defensive tackle Mazi Smith (26th overall pick) out of Michigan and third-round linebacker DeMarvion Overshown (90th overall) out of Texas.
"Heck yeah, I'm glad that these young guys are looking at me even though I'm considered a young guy myself [24 years old]," Parsons said on Saturday when asked about relishing the opportunity to be a mentor entering his third NFL season. "They see me as a guy who is putting in the work and a guy they feel like they can ask question to."
Since Overshown plays a similar position to Parsons at linebacker, he's been glued to the versatile Pro Bowler's hip. Overshown is strong in pursuit when it comes to playing against the run, and he's a big hitter for his size at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. He is a former safety who is a plus as run defender, and he's also fast enough (4.56 40-yard dash) to act as a capable quarterback spy on Eagles star quarterback Jalen Hurts as well as on New York Giants dual-threat Daniel Jones. Overshown, a speedy, rangy linebacker, fits defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's template at that position.
Parsons' key message is to have him showcase at least one signature strength to the coaches and front office before the team leaves training camp in Oxnard in a few weeks. Parsons always looks to share advice from his two years of All-Pro performance the last two seasons because he felt it was poured into him by three-time Pro Bowl defensive DeMarcus Lawrence and five-year veteran defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong.
"One guy [I've worked with a lot already] is D-Mo, Overshown," Parsons said. "The way he's gravitated toward me, I just tell him let it go. The way you see him flash and shoot a gap, I'm just like 'Bro, let it go all the time. Stop thinking and just play the game.' I told him I was really good at one thing and I can get better at everything else, but you can't get better at everything in your three weeks here. I told him I was really good at pass-rush, so you know what I did? Every time they dialed up a blitz, I was up in there. I made sure I was dominant in that area. The coverage and all that other stuff, I can learn that. I said 'Bro, you need to show them that you're really good at something.' Today, he showed that he was a playmaker and I told him 'that's the standard, that's how you do it and ball out bro.' I couldn't be more happy for him.
"There are plenty of guys like him trying to find their way on to this team because there are so many leaders on this team, it's always more than one person. There's way more than just one guy you can learn something from."
Defensive tackle Mazi Smith's selection with the 26th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft wasn't the most positional-value-conscious selection, but it filled a critical need along the Cowboys defense: their ability to stop the run. Dallas' run defense was their Achilles heel in 2022, ranking 22nd in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (129.3), and the Smith pick clearly helps address that issue. The 22-year-old also gives Dallas a young, middle of the defensive line anchor for years to come while standing at 6-foot-3, 337 pounds. The Cowboys needed a long-term replacement for Johnathan Hankins, the 31-year-old defensive tackle who returned on a one-year deal this offseason, and they got it. Since Smith's strength entering the NFL is his ability to plug up rush lanes, he's been picking Parsons' brain on evolving as a pass-rusher.
Learning how to rush the passer at the NFL by receiving feedback from someone like Parsons, who co-led the NFL in quarterback pressures (90) last season with the San Francisco 49ers' Nick Bosa -- the 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- and recorded 13.5 sacks last season, which ranked seventh-most in the league, is a perfect match for Smith's desired development.
"Mazi, he's super explosive, super strong," Parsons said. "Every day he's gotten better. ...He's like, 'Man, teach me how to pass rush. Teach me how to get off. Teach me how to this.' He's been emphasizing that and just getting better and better. I think he's going to make a huge change for us."
In each of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's first two seasons in Dallas, the Cowboys have improved from a top 10 scoring defense in 2021 -- 21.1 points per game allowed, seventh-fewest in the NFL -- to a top-five scoring defense in 2022 -- 20.1 points per game allowed, fifth-fewest in the NFL. Perhaps with the addition of 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Yearand these youngsters in the front seven, Dallas could make legitimate run at being the NFL's stingiest defense in 2023.