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Cowboys’ Micah Parsons draws high praise — but just shy of Lawrence Taylor territory

After finishing as the runner-up for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award the last two seasons, this could be Micah Parsons's time after a fast start through three games. CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGESChristian Petersen/Getty

FOXBOROUGH — Micah Parsons, a two-time All-Pro in his third season with the Cowboys, is an elite game-wrecker.

In the first three contests of the 2023 season, the 24-year-old has four sacks, eight quarterback hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. No surprise that he’s one of the early favorites to win Defensive Player of the Year.

On Monday, Bill Belichick came as close as he’s ever come to handing Parsons the ultimate compliment, making a roundabout comparison to Lawrence Taylor.

“He could be inside. He could be outside. He could be on either edge,” Belichick told WEEI when asked about Parsons. “He’s a big, physical player that’s very athletic and quick. Along the lines of a Taylor. That kind of athlete.”

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On Wednesday, Belichick walked that back a little. Asked if there were some similarities in the playing style between Taylor and Parsons, the coach pointed to their different positions within separate schemes.

“No. It’s a lot different defense than what we played in New York,” Belichick said of the Giants. “Lawrence played outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. These guys don’t even have a 3-4 defense. Not saying they should, but that’s just totally different … Parsons is really a defensive end.”

Belichick was asked if Parsons’ physical gifts compare favorably to Taylor.

“I think comparing players like that, it’s not really — I would just say, I wouldn’t put anybody ahead of Lawrence Taylor. Period,” Belichick said. “Now, maybe I’m prejudiced, but I mean, I saw that guy every day for over a decade and he tilted the field for a decade. So, until somebody does that — and there’s a lot of great players and I’m not taking anything away from anybody else, there’s a lot of great players that have been in this league, that are in this league.

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“But personally, I’m not putting anybody ahead of Lawrence Taylor. Not yet.”

The New England offensive line has already faced several imposing fronts this season, but Parsons brings his own unique challenges.

“He can just do a lot. I know he’s played more off the ball than we played him in the past and maybe last year a little bit too,” center David Andrews said of Parsons. “He’s a great player. He does a lot of good things. Plays really hard. Plays with great effort. Has a great get-off. Explosive. He’s got everything you want in a defensive player.

“He’s one of those guys, you always want to know where they are,” he added. “At the same time, you can’t let that paralyze you in any way. Like I said, it’s one of those things … you have a guy like that, why wouldn’t you try and match him up and get him where you want him and give him different advantages. I think they do a really good job of that.”

Sunday will mark a homecoming for running back Ezekiel Elliott. The veteran, who played seven seasons with the Cowboys, will be back in Dallas for the first time since being released by the Cowboys.

“It’s cool. It’s cool going back to Dallas,” he said. “I spent a lot of time there — a lot of great times there. But you’ve got to keep your mind on the main thing, and that’s going out there and getting better as a team and going out there and getting another win.”

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Dallas apparently plans to honor Elliott prior to the game. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t want to tip his hand as to what might be planned — he said he doesn’t “want to blow a surprise” — but had nothing but good things to say about Elliott and his time in Dallas.

“As far as a back that the opposing team hates to tackle, I think he’s at the top of the list,” Jones said. “Zeke took a toll on those defensive players. I’ll always remember that.”

“I’m very appreciative. I’m very appreciative of the time I spent in Dallas,” Elliott said. “Very thankful for Mr. Jones and the Jones family drafting me [fourth overall in 2016] and giving me an opportunity. But I’m focused on getting a win.”

A league source indicated the Patriots signed defensive lineman Manny Jones to their practice squad. The 6-foot-4-inch, 290-pounder played in four games last season with the Cardinals and had six tackles … The Patriots had perfect attendance at Wednesday’s workout. Cole Strange (knee) and Davon Godchaux (ankle) — two players who couldn’t finish the game against the Jets — were back in action … In all, five New England players were limited: Strange, Godchaux, defensive lineman (knee), cornerback Jonathan Jones (ankle), and offensive lineman Sidy Sow (concussion) … On the other side, Dallas had five players miss practice: center Tyler Biadasz (hamstring), wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (not injury related/rest), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (not injury related/rest), offensive lineman Zack Martin (ankle), and offensive lineman Tyron Smith (knee). In addition, offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (elbow) was limited … Belichick was complimentary of former Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is in his first season in Dallas. “Steph’s had a great career,” Belichick said of the 12-year veteran. “Steph looks kind of how he’s always looked — long, disruptive, and really good ball skills. You’ve got to be careful throwing the ball around him. He’ll catch it.”

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Christopher Price can be reached at christopher.price@globe.com. Follow him @cpriceglobe.