With just a few weeks remaining in the 2021 NFL season, the NFL rookie sack record is in danger of being broken. Dallas Cowboys rookie LB Micah Parsons is having an extraordinary season, but will it end with him in the record books? Let’s take a look at the current record and whether Parsons is on pace to break it.
Will Micah Parsons break the NFL rookie sack record?
Heading into Week 14, Parsons had 10 sacks. That was just 4.5 sacks short of the record held by Jevon Kearse at 14.5. With Parsons recording 7.5 sacks in the five games leading up to Dallas’ contest against Washington in Week 14, he is certainly on pace. Add in that Parsons had 2 sacks in the first half of the game in Washington, and he is now just 2.5 sacks behind Kearse.
The intriguing element for all records in 2021 and beyond is how we judge them. Kearse set his record back in 1999 in a 16-game season. If it takes Parsons until the 17th game of the season, does his record come with an asterisk?
Who else has gotten close to breaking the NFL rookie sack record?
Making an impact as a rookie is tough to do, and the history of this record proves that — for pass rushers at least. Since Kearse set his record in 1999, only two players have come close to breaking it.
In 2002, Dwight Freeney registered 13 sacks. Freeney might have only fallen 1.5 sacks short in the end, but it took 6 sacks in the final five games and 4 in the final three for him to even get close.
Remember back in 2011, when Aldon Smith set the NFL alight as a rookie? That season, he came agonizingly close to breaking the rookie sack record. In a four-game stretch between Weeks 4 and 8, Smith generated 6.5 sacks. At that point, he looked on pace to potentially break the record.
Smith then struggled before finishing the season hot. Between Weeks 13 and 16, he had another 6.5 sacks to take him to 14. Smith entered Week 17 against the Rams needing just 0.5 sacks to tie the record and 1 sack to break it. However, he could not register anything in the sack column, falling just short.
Who held the record before Jevon Kearse?
Prior to Kearse taking the NFL rookie sack record in 1999, Reggie White held the title, producing 13 sacks in 13 games in 1985. White would go on to earn eight All-Pro nods and join the NFL elite in the Hall of Fame. Had he not missed the start of the season, White may very well still hold the record to this day.
Before White, the record was tied at 11 between Vernon Maxwell and Keith Millard. However, the NFL only started recording sacks as an official statistic in 1982, so we have no idea if another rookie would hold the record if the numbers dated back further.