The Professional Football Writers of America released its selections for awards and for the All-Rookie AFC and NFC teams on January 25.

As was highly anticipated, the Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. In addition, Parsons was also awarded as the overall Rookie of the Year for the 2021 season. 

The Cowboys selected Parsons in the first round, 12th overall in the 2021 draft. Parsons had a short but successful college career at Penn State. He led the Nittany Lions in tackles as a true freshman despite getting only one start, then went on to record 109 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore during the 2019 season. Parsons opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns about COVID-19, then decided to forego his remaining college eligibility to make himself available for the NFL draft in 2021. 

In his first season with the Cowboys, Parsons recorded 13 sacks, a franchise record for a rookie, while also amassing 20 tackles for loss, tying for most in the NFL this season. Parsons was drafted as a linebacker but was used in various positions throughout the season, both situationally and due to injury and COVID. 

Parsons started 16 of 17 games this season, with his only non-start coming in Week 18 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Parsons — along with several other Cowboys players — was held out due to COVID-19 protocols after testing positive earlier that week. He totaled 79 tackles with 59 coming on solo efforts, defensed three passes, and forced three fumbles. Parsons recorded 67 QB pressures and a 22.4-percent pressure rate despite playing as an off-the-ball outside linebacker for the majority of the season. 

Parsons’ first game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw the player notch three solo tackles and four assists while defending a Tom Brady pass. Parsons’ first career sack came in Week 2, as he took down Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert. Parsons had multiple sack games three times in 2021, including his biggest day, a 2.5 sack performance in a loss to the Denver Broncos. He achieved a total of 9.5 sacks over a six-game stretch in midseason. 

That success translated into awards for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for both November and December. He is the only Cowboys player in franchise history to win the accolade multiple times in a season. Parsons was also awarded the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 8. Pro Football Writers of America also named Parsons to the honorary 2021 PFWA All-NFL team, the only rookie selected. 

Parsons is considered a top candidate to win the coveted NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, though the path to that honor is more challenging considering the defensive performances of some of the established NFL stars this season. That award will be announced in a special ceremony held Thursday, February 10, ahead of the start of Super Bowl LVI weekend. 

Should Parsons win both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, he will be only the second player in NFL history to have done so. Former New York Giants star Lawrence Taylor won both awards in the 1991 season.