Last year’s fourth round pick showed great promise as a hybrid linebacker despite minimal games played in 2018. After the events of the offseason one has to wonder how Kyzir White fits in for the upcoming season. In fact Bleacher Report mentioned White as the player with the most to prove on the Chargers roster. I must say that I find it hard to disagree. White showed great football IQ and ability to play all three linebacker positions last year during the pre-season. While it turned out he ultimately winning the weak side starting job. However the teams ultimate demise was the result of injuries to the linebacker core, the team had to add depth. The team added seasoned 14 year veteran and highly respected Thomas Davis along with the re-signing of underrated middle linebacker Denzel Perryman. So where does the converted hard hitting safety fit in exactly?
Some would think that bringing in Davis makes White a rotational piece, however due to the age of Davis it could be in the works for White to become a rotational piece and possibly a third down backer due to his background as a safety so it might make sense to bring him in on pass coverage downs. This helps to preserve Davis legs throughout the course of a season but also the health of White. Yet it remains a fact that Davis had a higher coverage grade than any of the linebackers on the Chargers at 74.4 on 330 total snaps. So maybe they plan on Davis being a three down linebacker still. It is also surprising to find that White actually had a higher run defensive grade at 66.2 compared to Davis coming in at 63.5. With that being said I find it hard to imagine White starting on early downs over Davis. The one thing that doesn’t show up on a statistical grade is the leadership Davis brings and mentorship for a young linebacker core that is likely expected of him.
Given the fact that Kyzir also knows how to play the “MIKE” position and has been getting rep’s at that position, it is also possible that he could serve as a coverage linebacker over Denzel Perryman while Perryman handles early downs, as he is an absolute heat seeking missile and hard hitter. Perryman’s coverage grade was lower than the other two mentioned at 64.7. Denzel has also never managed a full 16 game season as he also has been plagued by injuries. With that being said it is possible he becomes a third down linebacker alongside Davis rather than the other way around and or a combination of both positions on third down. No matter who he directly substitutes with most there is no doubt in my mind that he will be the immediate go to linebacker off the bench and in rotations despite the acquisition of Drue Tranquill during the draft. It is also of note that Tranquill himself has also been getting the majority of his rep’s in at the MIKE position.
Another and yet less likely scenario could be that the team run’s more of the base defense to get Davis, Perryman, and White all on the field at once. However this means also less playing time for Uchenna Nwosu who is heading into his second season and who is also a pass rusher specialist for the strong side ‘SAM” position. In this particular scenario this would also lead to a lot less playing time for all pro Desmond King. This hardly seems likely as it wouldn’t make sense to not use the second highest graded cornerback from just a year ago. I also envision Nwosu being utilized a lot more as the “LEO” in Bradley’s system this year. For those of you who don’t know the leo is the blitz coming from an unsuspecting defender. Sometimes he does this more with utilizing three defensive ends but seeing as how this is going to be Nwosu’s first full season I look for him to be utilized a lot. This all leaves Kyzir White as a player who may be lost in the mix or simply utilized as a strategic rotational piece. I have full faith In Gus Bradley and the way he finds a way for players to fit in. Let’s keep in mind that lack of reliable depth at the position played a huge factor in the team’s downfall. So even if he becomes the next in line rather than a starter, when or if injury strikes there will be a backup with more than enough confidence and skill to keep stability to the group.
It is also worth noting that before Kyzir went down with injury Adrian Phillips wasn’t really getting any playing time as the coaching staff felt comfortable letting White handle the third down pass coverage situations. It may turn out that if veteran players like Thomas Davis and Denzel Perryman can in fact maintain a healthy slate then White may be just regulated to dime package coverage. I mean he was a safety and probably much more skilled than Phillips. Either way the coaching staff will find a way to utilize and get Kyzir White on the field. With added depth at the linebacker core going into this upcoming season there is no shame in being an important rotational piece rather than a starter. He may have been a starter to open the season last year but keep in mind the position group is much deeper and more experienced this time around.