When the new-look Arizona Cardinals defense took to the field last Friday night, you could feel the energy. Head coach Jonathan Gannon has brought a new philosophy with him to the desert, and first-year coordinator Nick Rallis is doing all that he can to get the players to buy into Gannon's vision.
Many observers believed that the Redbirds would operate in a 4-3 defensive scheme under Rallis, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Early on, the team appears to be more equipped to run a 3-4 alignment. What that means is that Arizona will once again have not one, but two inside linebackers patrolling the middle of the playing field this coming fall.
Having spent the past two campaigns as a linebackers coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, Rallis must have been thrilled with one of the club's offseason acquisitions. Kyzir White, a free-agent pickup from Philly, should be well-versed in what Gannon and Rallis are bringing to the Cardinals. With that type of knowledge, the 27-year-old White could act as a type of on-field leader for the squad's newly-implemented defensive system.
One of the more unheralded additions that the Cards made this past spring was Krys Barnes, a fourth-year veteran from the Green Bay Packers. At the moment, the 6 foot 2, 229 pounder is slated to start next to White when "Big Red" travels to take on the Washington Commanders on opening day. Barnes has made an impact at the professional level, in spite of the fact that he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent back in 2020.
Both of the starting linebackers from the past two seasons will be playing elsewhere for the Arizona Cardinals in 2023
Ironically, a pair of former first-round selections from Arizona's previous regime are being replaced by White and Barnes in the starting lineup. What's even more surprising is that both of the former first-string inside linebackers still exist on the franchise's current roster.
Isaiah Simmons, the eighth-overall choice of the '20 draft, now resides in the Cardinals secondary. After the former defensive staff played a game of "musical chairs" with the 25-year-old, Gannon and Rallis seem to think that the former Clemson University product can excel at safety. While it's still possible that Simmons could be moved around a bit, it seems fairly safe to say that his days as an inside linebacker are over.
One year after Simmons joined the organization, the Cards acquired Zaven Collins with the 16th-overall pick of the 2021 draft. A few months back, the "Red Sea" learned that the new coaches also have a fresh plan for the 6 foot 4, 260 pound Collins. Quarterbacks beware, the former University of Toledo product is about to be unleashed on the league's signal-callers from his brand-new outside linebacker position.
With White and Barnes, Arizona now possesses a pair of tackling machines in the center of the defense. Simmons and Collins have moved on to roles that both Gannon and Rallis believe the duo can be successful at. Looks like the Cardinals may have the best of both worlds now with the talented foursome in 2023.