Former Eagles linebacker can be a teacher with new coachesDarren Urban
Kyzir White had some familiarity with the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center already.
His brother, NFL wide receiver Kevin White, was with the Cardinals through the preseason in 2019. And Kyzir White just spent a week at the facility himself in early February when his Eagles practiced there in the week before the Super Bowl.
"It's crazy," Kyzir White said Friday, just before officially signing his new two-year contract with the Cardinals with his brother among family in tow. "I was just saying that when we pulled up. Just crazy."
But the building and his brother aren't why the linebacker chose to sign with the Cardinals as a free agent after a season with the Eagles. It was his Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon now the Cardinals' head coach, and his Eagles linebacker coach Nick Rallis as Cardinals defensive coordinator.
White arrives as more than just a piece to drop in next to Zaven Collins and (perhaps) Isaiah Simmons on the defense's second level. He also is someone who can serve as an extension of Gannon and Rallis on the field, a live-action teaching tool of what the coaches are trying to accomplish on the field.
"I feel like I have an advantage, so I want to give insight and help wherever I can," White said. "I'm never going to know everything. But that's what I am striving to do, to be a quarterback of the defense."
That defensive construction is early in the process - the Cardinals also officially signed defensive lineman Kevin Strong - and both Gannon and Rallis have sidestepped many specifics before they can see players on the field.
"We joked about it, 'Are you 3-4 or 4-3? Yeah, yeah, yeah and yeah,' " Gannon said. "Whatever you need to win the game, that's what we're going to do. We have a philosophy of how we want to play defense and what's important. It is not my defense, it's not Nick's defense, it's our defense and when we say that, it's the players' defense.
"It'll be an ever-evolving process and I just feel like that's the best way to play defense in 2023."
Personnel matters, of course. That's one of the reasons the Cardinals wanted White, a familiar face that had 110 tackles, 1½ sacks, three tackles for loss and seven pass breakups playing 76 percent of the defensive snaps in 2022.
White said he wanted to "try and bring that culture" from Philadelphia, a mindset that helped get the Eagles to the Super Bowl.
Doing it alongside Gannon and Rallis made sense.
"That was the easy call," White said. "I built a great relationship with them. I trust them, I know the system. I really believe in those guys."