Eagles LB Kyzir White’s stellar debut is only the beginning of a promising season

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Kyzir White (43) intercepts a pass during pre-season game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 12, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

When the Philadelphia Eagles signed Kyzir White in free agency, it felt like a certified steal.

A tested veteran with local roots who played 1,520 snaps for the Chargers from 2020-21. Kyzir White was allowed to test the open market due to LA’s depth at linebacker. After failing to secure a new team in the opening hours of free agency, White ultimately agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with the Eagles and made his way back to the East Coast to prove he’s worthy of a long-term deal.

Through the summer, White did little to squelch that opinion.

Playing a mere handful of defensive snaps over the preseason, White picked off Zach Wilson in Week 1 and effectively sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the rest of his summer with a roster spot locked up. Even as Nakobe Dean continued to shine and make a strong push for a spot in the defensive rotation, White’s spot in the starting lineup was all but locked up with the Eagles, and it likely wouldn’t be tested until Week 1 of the regular season, when the live bullets started to fly.

Well, if White continues to play like he did against Detroit, Nakobe Dean will have to find another path onto the field, as the West Virginia product produced yet another game-changing play in coverage, the likes of which just don’t usually get made by Philadelphia linebackers.

Kyzir White is 2-2 in big plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.

In Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season, White played 51 of the Eagles’ 69 defensive snaps. He amassed five combined tackles on five attempts and only allowed two of the three balls thrown his way in coverage for a whopping two yards and zero touchdowns.

But that doesn’t tell the full story. 

No, in a game where the interior defense struggled to stop the run, allowing the one-two punch of D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams to gash Johnathan Gannon’s defense to the tune of 181 rushing yards on 28 attempts and have issues keeping with the likes of Amon-Ra St. Brown across the middle of the field, White provided something that the Eagles have rarely received from their linebacking corps: solid as a rock pass coverage.

That’s right, while White didn’t look like the second coming of Seth Joyner versus the pass, the undersized weakside linebacker finished out the game as the lone Eagle with a Defensive Grade of 70 or higher according to Pro Football Focus and ranked third among 58 qualifying performers in Week 1 with a coverage grade of 82.8. He once again made a big play versus the pass, this time deflecting the ball to James Bradberry for a Pick 6 instead of picking off the pass himself, and even if he was tested on occasion by Jared Goeff, it never outwardly hurt the Birds’ defense.

Of all the linebackers Gannon has employed in his zone-heavy defense, White is by far the best in coverage, as his Week 1 efforts – both regular season and preseason – clearly showcased.

Will White eventually be tested in more man coverage situations against dynamic tight ends? Potentially so; White was barely tested in man coverage against T.J. Hockenson in Week 1 and may find himself bullied up on by the likes of Pat Freiermuth, Logan Thomas, and even Philly’s old friend Zach Ertz when he comes to town in Week 5. Still, when dropped into the zone, between the tackles within three-to-nine yards of the line of scrimmage, there isn’t a better option on the Eagles’ roster than White to blanket his section of the field and make plays with his exceptional instincts and quarterback-focused vision.

Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire