The Los Angeles Chargers run defense was one of the worst in the league in 2017. One of the main reasons for the was the lack of linebacker talent. The Chargers hope rookie Kyzir White can be an answer.
The Los Angeles Chargers had a two-faced defense in 2017. On one hand, the gave up the third least yard per game through the air on the sixth least yards per attempt. On the other hand, they gave up the second most yards on the ground on the worst yards per carry. This is largely to do with the Chargers lack of talent at linebacker. Though Denzel Perryman showed that he has a high ceiling in his rookie season in 2015, he has struggled to stay on the field with injuries.
Since cracking the starting lineup in week 11, rookie Denzel Perryman's 17.4 run stop percentage ranks 1st, just ahead of Luke Kuechly.
— PFF (@PFF) December 10, 2015
The linebackers outside of Perryman were not good in 2017. Jatavis Brown took a step back from his promising rookie season. Brown led the Chargers in tackles in his 2016 rookie season in only 12 games. He also added 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 6 passes defended. Last season, Brown took a step back which likely had to do with a high ankle sprain combined with a switch from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3. Brown also struggled in coverage through the first month of the season.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) October 13, 2017
To help the thin linebacking corp and potentially fight for a starting spot, the Chargers drafted Kyzir White.
White followed in his brothers Kevin (Chicago Bears wide receiver) and Ka’Raun’s (free agent wide receiver) footsteps and transferred to West Virginia from Lackawanna College as one of the best JUCO safeties in the country. At West Virginia, White shifted to the “Spur” role, hybrid linebacker/safety. White made an impact right away, with 58 total tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 passes defended. He followed that up with 94 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 4 passes defended.
While at West Virginia, White demonstrated the ability to stop the run as well as defend the pass. Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) wrote a fantastic breakdown on White for Catch Scratch Reader, complete with gifs.
One of White’s best traits is his pass coverage, however. PFF graded White as a cornerback because of his duties in pass coverage. Despite this, White still graded highly in pass coverage.
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 25, 2018
The Chargers drafted White with the 119th overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. In White, the Chargers saw a potential weakside linebacker who can help in every facet of the defense. White graded out as the 10th best overall cornerback and best run defending cornerback by PFF.
The Chargers continue to add pieces to the secondary, this time in the form of West Virginia's Kyzir White pic.twitter.com/syvJSJ6Xg0
— PFF (@PFF) April 28, 2018
White started to impress right away. First was his fellow rookie, linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, during rookie minicamp. He also impressed the coaches in OTAs. Entering training camp, head coach Anthony Lynn had a lot of praise for White. White was impressive enough early in camp that he was able to run with the first-team defense.
#Chargers are giving LB Kyzir White reps with the first team. Coach Lynn raved about him yesterday.
— Fernando Ramirez (@RealFRamirez) July 30, 2018
NFL Preseason Game Action
In his first NFL game action against the Cardinals, White impressed. He was all over the field, officially account for 4 tackles, but in on several more plays. This tied for the team lead. Though he did have moments to learn from, he showed why he belongs in the NFL.
After resing for the Chargers second preseason game, White continued to display his abilities against the New Orleans Saints. First, he picked of Saints backup quarterback Tom Savage in a joint practice. Then White was given the start at the weakside linebacker position. He was able to make a couple run stops and did well in man coverage. On the other hand, White’s competition to start, Brown, did not have a good game, missing several tackles against second and third teamers.
Saints quarterback Tom Savage throws an interception in 11 on 11. Picked off by the Chargers Kyzir White.
— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) August 22, 2018
NFL Regular Season Game Action
For all of his work in the preseason, White was named as a starter for the Chargers week one game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chargers say Isaac Rochell will start at DE for Joey Bosa, Derwin James will start at S for Rayshawn Jenkins and Kyzir White will start at OLB for Jatavis Brown.
— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) September 9, 2018
Though the Chargers lost a shootout and the defense did not look great as a whole, White did. White lead the Chargers in tackles and the Chargers linebackers in snap count. Brown only played 14 defensive snaps to White’s 44. White also showed he has some thump.
We got two really good looks at why the Chargers drafted Kyzir White in the second quarter. This is the first. 3rd and 1. KC w/ four in backfield, ball is snapped to Spencer Ware. He fakes hand off and takes it himself. Kyzir isn’t fooled, comes down hill, lowers the boom at LOS. pic.twitter.com/21vfYoYrur
— The Lightning Round Podcast (@Lightning_Round) September 10, 2018
Though he did not make any spectacular plays, White showed out in his first NFL game. However, he made have had an impact on the run defense, as the Chargers held running back Kareem Hunt to 49 yards on 16 carries.
The Los Angeles Chargers struggled to stop the run in 2017. They also were very thin at linebacker talent entering the 2018 offseason. Thus, the Chargers drafted linebacker prospects in the 2018 NFL draft, including Kyzir White. White has demonstrated his ability to stop the run as well as the pass in college, throughout the NFL preseason, and the start of the NFL regular season. He impressed the Chargers coaches enough to earn the starting nod in week one against the Chiefs.
White is still going under the radar. As he continues to grow and learn the linebacker position, he will become more and more valuable in IDP leagues.