The best defensive rookie in the NFL belongs to Micah Parsons, as the Dallas Cowboys linebacker was selected as the Associated Press' Defensive Rookie of the Year at the NFL Honors ceremony on Thursday night. Parsons, an All-Pro selection in 2021, is the first Cowboys rookie to capture the honor in the franchise's storied history. He is also the first unanimous Defensive Rookie of the Year in league history.
Parsons finished an outstanding rookie campaign with 84 tackles, 13 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, 20 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles in 16 games. His 13 sacks were the most from a rookie since Aldon Smith in 2011 and his 20 tackles for loss were the most by a rookie since Lavonte David in 2012. Since quarterback hits were first tracked in 2006, Parsons' 30 quarterback hits were the most by a rookie in NFL history. He finished third in the NFL in tackles for loss, tied for fourth in quarterback hits, and sixth in sacks.
A Pro Bowl selection in 2021, Parsons finished with 67 pressures (ninth in the NFL) and his 21.8% pressure rate trailed only Devin White for best in the league. His run-stop percentage of 10.0% was fourth-best among linebackers in the NFL.
Parsons is the first player with 13 sacks and 80 tackles in a single season since J.J. Watt in 2012 (Watt won Defensive Player of the Year that season). The 13 sacks were tied for third-most by a rookie in NFL history (since sacks became an NFL stat in 1982). One of just 12 players with at least 10 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2021, Parsons was just one of six rookies with 12 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in a season since 1999 (Dwight Freeney, Joey Bosa, Maxx Crosby, Von Miller, and Clay Matthews are the others).
The only Cowboys rookie to ever have double-digit sacks in a season, Parsons was the best rookie in the NFL throughout the year. His 2021 campaign was one of the best for a rookie defensive player in NFL history.
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