Analyzing the Arizona Cardinals linebackers for 2023 (Most versatile group?)

Sep 12, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA;  Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zeke Turner (47), linebacker
Sep 12, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zeke Turner (47), linebacker / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals have quite the versatile group of linebackers heading into the 2023 season, with two big names perhaps playing multiple positions.

The Arizona Cardinals look like they have a logjam at linebacker, though you can count on Zaven Collins and Isaiah Simmons plugging in at multiple spots on defense, with Simmons likely taking snaps at corner and safety while Collins could bump out and play edge (in the 3-4), and even defensive end (in the 4-3). 

This could leave more than a few linebackers on the active roster. So who made the cut and who could wind up elsewhere in 2023? Keep reading to find out. 

Versatility defines Arizona Cardinals linebackers in 2023

Projected Starters in 3-4: Zaven Collins, Kyzir White, Krys Barnes, B.J. Ojulari; Star Backer: Isaiah Simmons; Backups: Cam Thomas, Owen Pappoe, Zeke Turner, Josh Woods, Myjai Sanders

Projected Starters in 4-3: Owen Pappoe, Kyzir White, Krys Barnes; Star Backer: Isaiah Simmons; Backups: Zeke Turner, Josh Woods

As you can see, there are two dramatically different-looking projections depending on the scheme the Arizona Cardinals run, and you can’t rule out the hybrid scheme which may show us some 3-4 and 4-3 looks. If Collins makes the full transition to edge in the 3-4, expect him to potentially put his hand in the dirt if the Cards run 4-3 looks, but don’t be surprised if he remains at linebacker in some packages. 

Isaiah Simmons’ star backer role is the most interesting. He will line up with the starters at linebacker in the 3-4 and 4-3, but I have him listed separately from the starters given his overall versatile role, and as mentioned, you will see him playing plenty of corner. 

Like Collins, B.J. Ojulari, Cam Thomas, and Myjai Sanders will be linebackers in the 3-4, but they will most likely see time at defensive end in the 4-3. Unlike Collins, look for them to line up exclusively on the defensive line as opposed to linebacker if the Cards end up running more 4-3 looks. 

Kyzir White will likely start full-time whether the Redbirds roll with a 4-3 or a 3-4, with Krys Barnes lining up alongside him. Owen Pappoe will be the key backup, but don’t be surprised if he ends up splitting reps with the starters, likely with Barnes. Zeke Turner and Josh Woods will serve as the primary backups regardless, but they will end up finding their niche on special teams. 

Overall, it’s a more than solid, and deep, group at linebacker, and one whose personnel can play different roles, depending on the scheme. Even if the Arizona Cardinals suffer from growing pains this season, this group will be interesting to watch. 

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