Linebacker wants to drive Cardinals to be a top defense
Commanders quarterback Sam Howell scrambled outside of the pocket trying to escape outside linebacker Cameron Thomas, and as he approached the line of scrimmage, Howell was formally, but not pleasurably, introduced to Kyzir White.
The greeting came by way of a hit-stick that was Madden 24-like. The gasps were audible, even on the broadcast.
White was flagged for lowering his helmet -- the coaches were not thrilled -- and caused a scrum between the Cardinals and Commanders. But the first-quarter hit also set a tone.
"You want to try and slow him down a little bit while not intentionally trying to hurt anybody," White said. "My viewpoint is that he was in bounds, going to run out of bounds, and I'm trying to lay a hit on him so he stops wanting to run."
White led the defense that finished with six sacks, adding nine tackles of his own. Defensive coordinator Nick Rallis has repeatedly said that his unit will play with violence, high motor, and physicality, and the sixth-year linebacker -- who was with Rallis and Jonathan Gannon last season in Philadelphia -- believes that the Commanders game was just the beginning.
"When you look at tape on the 2023 Arizona Cardinals, I think you're going to see that all year of us playing violent, fast with a lot of takeaways and a lot of energy," White said. "We're trying to be the best defense in the NFL, simple as that."
The expectations for the Cardinals, especially nationally, aren't the highest. It's an added motivation for this team. Each week presents a different opponent, challenge, and opportunity.
The beauty of it all is the unknown of what will happen next.
"People can say what they want, but it's the National Football League and anybody could be beat," White said. "You see with the Jets when Aaron Rodgers went out and Zach Wilson comes in. I bet you everybody though the Bills were going to win.
"We all get paid to do this. It ain't like oh, just because you have a stacked roster you can't be beat. You still have to go out there and play football."
White knows that all too well, having lost in last year's Super Bowl with a talented Philadelphia roster. His time with the Eagles coincided with Rallis and Gannon.
Fellow linebacker Dennis Gardeck noted that White's time with the coaching staff has had a huge impact on the Cardinals linebackers. Having been in Rallis' linebacker room previously, White is "able to help get guys on the right track and understand his level of knowledge, and it matches his level of skill on the field."
His leadership and experience is also one of the reasons why Gannon named White one of the team captains. On the field, his role has expanded as well, in a defense with which he's already familiar.
"He knows there's ways that he can do better and keep improving his game, but I thought he tackled well and did a good job of running the whole show," Rallis said. "He's got the green dot (to call plays) in there. We put a lot on his plate to get us in and out of checks and everything like that, and he did a phenomenal job from that standpoint."
White will see a familiar foe Sunday at State Farm Stadium, against a Giants team who the Eagles played three times last season.
"We play hard, play good, play sound football, play aggressive, so we have to transfer that to this week," White said. "I'm definitely excited for the home opener and it's going to be exciting."