The Eagles signed a linebacker! I enjoyed watching Kyzir White because I don’t think I have ever focused on him or watched him before, so I went into this with fresh eyes. I deliberately didn’t read anything about him until after I wrote this piece. I actually think I see his game differently to a lot of other people after reading some things about him once I finished this piece. Hopefully you can see where I am coming from and the clips below highlight why I have formed this opinion.
Let’s get to it.
All numbers below from PFF and only includes linebackers with 20% of the snaps, which includes 95 total linebackers.
- PFF grade of 66.5, ranks 25th.
- Started the season with 2 awful PFF grades of 37 (week 2) and 28 (week 3). I watched the Chiefs game and thought he was poor too.
- Missed tackle % of 7, ranks 18th lowest.
- 53 ‘stops’, ranks 7th!
- Allowed 7.9 yards per reception, ranks 15th lowest.
- PFF credits him with 62 tackles in run defense, ranks 4th!
+ Extremely athletic and very fast. Very smooth runner with good change of direction. Very good in pursuit.
That speed is really useful against teams that run a lot of screens, checkdowns, RPOs etc. Here he does a great job being too quick for the TE and making a play on the running back. Speed matters! pic.twitter.com/UYwoPpEzur— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
That speed again! Great pursuit even when he initially misses out. I watched a lot of games and you rarely ever see a running back outrun him or beat him to the edge. He has really good instincts and speed. pic.twitter.com/8qDxPJ0lFP— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
+ A really good sideline to sideline linebacker with the speed to deal with outside runs, toss plays, jet sweets etc.
Let's touch on the speed again. He's really good at getting to running backs or wide receivers in space on the edge. He's too quick for offensive lineman to get to on outside runs. pic.twitter.com/r08aD32i6h— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
He's not a natural linebacker (and you'll see it later) in many ways but he's got that sideline to sideline trait. He seems to make plays all over the field and always seems to be around the ball. He has really good pursuit and normally takes good angles on the edge too. pic.twitter.com/pb04M4DgoY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
It's very basic but speed just allows you to get to the ball carrier quicker. Here he stops the play from gaining more yards just by getting to the ball quickly and making a really strong tackle. He is always close to the ball when you watch him play which is a good sign! pic.twitter.com/oeBWOOPIBB— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
+ Used in man coverage on both tight ends and running backs and looked good. In particular, strong at covering running backs out the backfield.
He was used a fair bit in man coverage too and was often tasked with backs or tight ends. He's always extremely quick to get to the flat and rarely gives up a lot of yards after the catch. pic.twitter.com/RtYTIuE6wG— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
The Chargers were not afraid to leave him on Kelce a few times. I think he is a little grabby in coverage and gets away with it at times but he showed the ability to cover very good players in man coverage which is something the Eagles have not had at linebacker for a long time pic.twitter.com/cqLi92rt8n— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
+ Elite at pursuing quarterbacks when they try to create out of structure plays outside the pocket. Very quick at leaving his zone to get after the quarterback.
Kyzir White thread... Let's go. Starting with the things I like as always. Will be a lot more on this in the article but I think this is my favourite thing about him - breaking from zone responsibility and getting to QBs trying to make plays outside of structure quickly! pic.twitter.com/Nj64ynXGTd— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
Here we go again! Look at that closing speed when he goes after the QB. I think this is a vital trait in the modern NFL where stopping QBs when they get outside the pocket is a major priority for all defenses. He's extremely fast over 5 yards. pic.twitter.com/USBDT6mIi1— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
Another really good example of this. He has a really good feel for when to go and get to the QB who is trying to create outside of structure. pic.twitter.com/yPhI36sFuR— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
+ Good at avoiding contact with offensive linemen due to his quickness and getting a free run at the running back.
He is quite an odd fit at linebacker in terms of playing inside runs. He's quite weak at the point of attack and is better when he can avoid contact and play the ball carrier. It's quite an odd style because he's so light but he does do a decent job at avoiding contact a lot. pic.twitter.com/v5eeyRemZC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
Don't get me wrong, he can get off contact and be physical at the point of attack but it's definitely not a major strength of his. This was one of the better examples! pic.twitter.com/Xmf3wkexS4— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
+ Very good awareness in zone coverage. Has a really good feel for who is around him and jumps shorter routes.
I also thought he was really good in coverage, especially in zone. He has a good feel for receivers running nearby and does a good job jumping routes to prevent the quick throw from the QB. I imagine this a huge reason the Eagles wanted him. pic.twitter.com/D6yArvt7UQ— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
I really like this play. He never turns around once but can feel the receiver running behind him and drops quickly. He does a good job knowing what's around him and reading the QBs eyes to make this a really tough throw for the QB. pic.twitter.com/1PMcR1loOf— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
This might be the easiest INT ever but even before the pick, I think he does a good job reading the QBs eyes and getting into that gap to stop the dig route behind him. I think he has a great feel for zone coverage and knowing his responsibility. pic.twitter.com/TxIULzWEjf— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
- Undersized for a linebacker and will get moved in the run game by good offensive linemen. Can also be run over for extra yards by big tight ends and running backs.
OK then, let's get to some weaknesses. He is undersized and can be weak at the point of attack in the run game. The Chargers scheme left him quite isolated in space at times but he can certainly get moved a lot in the run game. He profiles sort of similar to Reddick in that sense pic.twitter.com/97Wsmhvvav— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
Very minor weakness but you can see he's undersized at times when tackling. Bigger guys will push him backwards and pick up extra yards, even when he gets to the ball carrier quickly. pic.twitter.com/fwYXFIkX8E— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
- Sometimes too fast for his own good and will overpursue running backs.
- Seems lost at times on running plays. Maybe down to his lack of experience playing the position.
He didn't have a great game v. the Chiefs early on in the season and you saw some inexperience playing the position. He seemed confused quite a bit by the Chiefs motion and RPO game. pic.twitter.com/KsmsN5EpWq— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
- Will back away offensive linemen and try to avoid contact if he can. Struggles at the point of attack and will rarely disengage if an offensive linemen gets a hand on him.
Here you would love to see him be more aggressive and get downhill quicker but it's not really his style. He's more willing to stand off and try to get around the lineman with his speed. pic.twitter.com/fwgd1bc3KC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) March 30, 2022
- Can be a bit grabby in coverage, especially with good tight ends. I don’t mind it but sometimes I felt he got away with pass interference a few times.
- Rarely rushes the quarterback and didn’t show the ability to blitz effectively unless he was a free rusher, where his speed is then useful.
Kyzir White plays linebacker as you would expect a converted safety to play linebacker. He is undersized and can be moved at the point of attack by offensive linemen in the run game. He is better when he avoids contact and uses his speed to get to the running back untouched as he will struggle to disengage from offensive lineman. However, this speed leads to some impressive plays and a number of tackles of loss. His speed is very useful in the modern game as he excels at putting late pressure on quarterbacks who are trying to extend the play outside the pocket which is very common. He has the skill set to be used as a spy on mobile quarterbacks and the ability to man up with tight ends and running backs. He also shows good instincts and speed in zone coverage.
The Eagles’ defense has been slow for a while and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they have signed White and Haason Reddick, two very explosive players. However, both of them have flaws in the run game and I think my concern with White is his inability to take on offensive linemen at the point of attack. He is not weak against the run, but I was not impressed with some of his plays against the run, in particular down the middle runs. However, his speed is evident at stopping outside runs and also gadget plays, such as jet sweeps from receivers etc.
I can see why White was signed to a pretty low 1 year deal, but I can also see the huge appeal from an Eagles point of view. He will instantly become the Eagles best linebacker in coverage and I think he has basically signed to play a similar role that they hoped Davion Taylor could play last season before injury. The Eagles have not had a linebacker with the speed to match up to tight ends and running backs in man coverage or a linebacker with instincts as good as White’s in zone coverage.
I think White creates a good pair with TJ Edwards who will play the more physical, downhill linebacker whilst White will use his speed to clean up. Edwards struggles in coverage with his athleticism too so White will be a valuable asset.
More than anything though, I think White was signed for his speed and his ability to stop opposing quarterbacks from creating plays outside of structure. The modern game is all about stopping explosive plays on defense, especially on 3rd down, and we are currently seeing huge plays come outside of structure from a new generation of quarterbacks who rely on ‘playmaking’ and their mobility. Just think of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson. They are more dangerous outside of structure than within structure sometimes! White can play zone coverage while spying on the quarterback and he has explosive speed when he sees the quarterback get outside the pocket. This is a huge advantage to a defense in the modern game. Oliver Connolly (who writes a brilliant substack called the Read Optional) wrote last year about the new generation of spies who defensive coordinators are using to stop quarterbacks from making plays outside the pocket. I won’t go into detail here (read the article attached!) but this picture gives an idea of what Oliver means.
I think White is a great fit for this role in the modern game. He can drop out into a shallow coverage and then chase down the quarterback the second he tries to escape the pocket. Although Reddick is more a traditional pass rusher, he is also excellent at chasing down quarterbacks due to his elite speed. With Reddick and White, I think the Eagles are trying to build a modern defense that will help prevent opposing quarterbacks from making huge second reaction plays. Any defense that can do this will have success in the modern NFL.
I think White clearly has flaws and there is a reason he wasn’t signed to a big contract by a Chargers team that struggled mightily against the run. White played a part in that poor run defense in my opinion, but I am excited by the player’s upside and the role he should have in this Eagles defense.