Philadelphia Eagles: Kyzir White isn’t just going away

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Nakobe Dean with the 83rd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, it felt like an absolute steal.

Once considered a player worthy of consideration at picks 15 and 18, watching the pride of Georgia slip from the first to the second, and eventually the third round for a linebacker-desperate team like the Eagles to swoop in and secure his services at a discount felt too good to be true, especially with how Howie Roseman values the position.

Fortunately, Roseman came through and reunited Jordan Davis, the team’s Jurassic-sized defensive centerpiece, with the ‘backer who lined him up at UGA. With the ‘dogs in the middle of the defense, the Eagles can safely assume they will maintain a stout, run-stopping defense for years to come, with the optionality to run all sorts of different coverages without having to stack the box with extra bodies. Suddenly, a two-deep safety look is not only viable but optimal, and a whole new world of zone-blitzing concepts is at the disposal of Jonathan Gannon.

Surely the future is looking bright for the Philadelphia Eagles at linebacker, but don’t discount the present either. Why? Because Kyzir White is a darn good linebacker in his own right who isn’t just going to cede his starting spot to Dean anytime soon.

The Philadelphia Eagles have a good problem at linebacker.

In a traditional 4-3 defensive front, the trio of White, Dean, and T.J. Edwards could co-exist without issue. Sure, running a pair of outside linebackers who are 6-foot-2, 216 pounds and 6-foot, 225 pounds is a tad unconventional, but very few teams trot out a trio of linebackers who all weigh in at 250 pounds in 2022; if they have any 250 linebackers at all.

Unfortunately, at least for the aforementioned trio of linebackers, Jonathan Gannon isn’t planning on running the same sort of attacking 4-3 with a wide-9 front that his predecessor, Jim Schwartz, built his career on. No, this new scheme will instead heavily rely on a 4-3 under alignment that will often see Haason Reddick – and his backups Patrick Johnson and/or Kyron Johnson – line up next to a defensive end to set a hard edge against the run and create interesting matchups in man and zone coverage.

Could fans occasionally see alignments where White, Dean, and Edwards are all on the field together, maybe with Davis and Fletcher Cox in the middle and Reddick and Josh Sweat deployed out wide? You bet, but it’s far more likely that the Eagles will instead simply run a linebacker rotation that sees White, Dean, and maybe even Edwards rotate into and out of the game situationally in the hopes of getting the best possible matchup situationally.

In the big nickel, for example, the Eagles may opt to keep Edwards on the field at middle linebacker and use a linebacker like White on the strongside and a safety, say, Marcus Epps, on the weakside. By contrast, in a pass-focused, “money downs” nickel package where getting at the quarterback is goal number one, having White and Dean at linebacker may prove more beneficial, as the duo are better zone matchups than Edwards, who notoriously ran a 4.87 40 coming out of Wisconsin.

Goodness, there’s a world where Dean serves as the Eagles’ dime linebacker, logging the middle of the defense all on his own while a sixth defensive back, likely Josiah Scott, matched up on an opposing receiver.

After allowing personnel to dictate his play-calling in 2021, Gannon’s best defensive game plan is suddenly at his disposal.

dark. Next. Josiah Scott is a solid safety valve

Eventually, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to have to make their collective minds up about how they compose their linebacking corps moving forward. White is a free agent at the end of the season, as is Edwards, and one or both will likely have to be re-signed unless someone like Davion Taylor magically transformed into a player right before fans’ eyes. Fortunately, after years of not having enough effective linebackers to field a competent defense, having one too many is certainly a good problem to have.