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What Kyzir White Means for Arizona Cardinals

What Kyzir White Means for Arizona Cardinals: Kyzir White is the Arizona's first external signing. What does he bring to the team?
Kyzir White Arizona Cardinals

Kyzir White became the Arizona Cardinals’ first external free agent signing of 2023. He signed a two-year deal worth up to $11 million after being an important cog for the Philadelphia Eagles in their Super Bowl run.

In 2022, White made 110 tackles (three for loss), 1.5 sacks and defended seven passes. He drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers in the fourth round, becoming a regular contributor for the Bolts. Since joining the league, White has improved every year and 2022 was certainly the pinnacle of his career so far.

White to the Cardinals had been brewing ever since Jonathan Gannon earned the job as the Cardinals’ head coach. Gannon was formerly the Eagles defensive coordinator and, as is the case with all head coaches, he was likely keen to bring some of ‘his guys’ to the desert. With T.J. Edwards signed by the Chicago Bears, the probability of White joining the Cardinals shot up immediately. The move makes even more sense given that Nick Rallis was appointed as the team’s defensive coordinator. He was White’s position coach in Philadelphia, where he played his best football.

So far, the Cardinals have had a fairly quiet off-season. They have re-signed Kelvin Beachum, Greg Dortch, Matt Prater, Corey Clement and Will Hernandez but have also seen the departure of Zach Allen to the Denver Broncos. Despite having a lot of cap space and a DeAndre Hopkins trade in the works, do not expect Arizona to pursue many big-ticket free agents.

Kyzir White to Arizona Cardinals: What He Brings

While White may not seem like a big signing to many, he is Arizona’s first external free agent signing in 362 days. Given how Arizona are looking to churn their roster under new GM Monti Ossenfort, White is expected to be a starter for the team in 2023.

Kyzir White’s Playstyle

White is primarily an off-ball linebacker. He works well in space and has gradually developed into a sturdy tackler. In both 2021 and 2022, White managed a PFF grade of over 65, which is testament to his steady contributions. He is known to be good in space and is particularly effective when he can sit in zone and read the play. With that said, White is also a tackle machine who is great at preventing chunk plays.

In every season of his NFL career, White has been primarily deployed as an inside linebacker. He does, however, provide some versatility. He can play most linebacker slots well. His competence in coverage is particularly impressive, but White can also be used in blitzes and can sometimes contribute as a pass rusher too.

New Scheme Implied from Kyzir White Signing

Arizona hit the refresh button after an atrocious 2022 season. Kliff Kingsbury was fired, and Steve Keim left the team. As such, the franchise sees the dawn of a new regime under Ossenfort and Gannon. While Gannon and Rallis have been reluctant to show their hand on their planned defensive scheme, the signing of White all but confirms a shift to a 4-3 base defense.

Previously, under Vance Joseph, the team played a 3-4 front with Zaven Collins as the mike linebacker and a rotation of Ben Niemann and Isaiah Simmons as the other interior linebacker. Rallis’ defense will look very different to this. Expect Collins to retain the mike role (and keep the green dot) but, with the addition of White, he and Simmons can fill the linebacker slots either side of Collins.

As such, expect the linebacking core to look something like this:
WLB – Kyzir White
MLB – Zaven Collins
SLB – Isaiah Simmons

This formation allows the team to keep White, Collins and Simmons on the field at the same time, forming one of the more intriguing linebacker corps in the league. However, the team could still go for a 3-4. This scenario would only occur if the team were not fond of Simmons (and it would leave White and Collins as the two inside linebackers).

White’s addition also gives the team a little more flexibility (and quality) at the linebacker position. It means that Simmon can be freed up to do more, whether that be rush the passer, cover the slot or spy the quarterback.

Kyzir White to Arizona Cardinals Predicated on Culture

While the scheme change is nice, perhaps the most important aspect of White’s acquisition is the culture aspect. The team’s lineacker corps is very young and so an experienced, accomplished player with scheme familiarity will help out Simmons and Collins a lot. White could even help with green dot duties, if required. He is a player with excellent football IQ and is always aware of his responsibilities.

The intangibles of White are important too. According to pundits, players and coaches, White is a well-respected locker room presence who will be able to instill some leadership and accountability to Arizona’s locker room. Gannon and Ossenfort had always said that they will only acquire players with high football character. The hope is that White will help build that high energy culture for the Cardinals.

Main Photo: Bill Streicher – USA Today Sports


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