Splitting time between two positions during his rookie campaign, Parsons finished the season with 13 sacks, 20 quarterback hits, 64 total pressures, 20 tackles for loss, three pass deflections and three forced fumbles. He won the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and finished second behind only T.J. Watt in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He was also named both a Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro. He was everything the Cowboys could reasonably have expected him to be and a whole lot more.
Opponents of all stripes took notice, including the victim of Parsons’ first career sack: Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. The Cowboys and Chargers held joint practices this week ahead of their preseason matchup, and the two stars were spotted chatting each other up between plays. Herbert heaped praise on Parsons, questioning whether he can even teach Dallas’ rising star much that he doesn’t already know.
“I think he’s about as special as it gets,” Herbert said, per The Athletic. “I don’t know if I have much to offer him. I was just talking to him between play calls. He’s a great person. I’m really looking forward to watching him this year.”
Parsons returned the favor, noting that Herbert already has an argument for being the league’s top signal-caller.
“I think Justin Herbert is a very good quarterback, one of the better quarterbacks — if not top quarterback — in the league,” Parsons said. “Going against him is great [competition]. I love going against him, I love him as a person. He’s a great dude and just competing with him, picking his brain on what he’s seeing out there and what I can do better, it’s been great so far and I can’t wait to get back out there [Thursday].”
Few quarterbacks have put together a better pair of seasons to begin their NFL careers than Herbert, who threw for 9,350 yards and 69 touchdowns against 25 interceptions during his rookie and sophomore campaigns. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year and then progressed to the Pro Bowl last season, and he enters this year as an inner-circle MVP candidate.
It’s highly likely that we’ll be talking about these two as a couple of the defining stars of their generation, and marveling at their talents for quite some time. They each seem to think that way about each other, at least.