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Eagles All-22 Film Review: Kyzir White brings speed to Philadelphia’s defense

Deep dive on Philadelphia’s new linebacker.

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Los Angeles Chargers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

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.

Stats

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!

Strengths

+ Extremely athletic and very fast. Very smooth runner with good change of direction. Very good in pursuit.

+ A really good sideline to sideline linebacker with the speed to deal with outside runs, toss plays, jet sweets etc.

+ Used in man coverage on both tight ends and running backs and looked good. In particular, strong at covering running backs out the backfield.

+ 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.

+ Good at avoiding contact with offensive linemen due to his quickness and getting a free run at the running back.

+ Very good awareness in zone coverage. Has a really good feel for who is around him and jumps shorter routes.

Weaknesses

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

- 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.

Overall

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 Future

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.