Position Grades: Arizona Cardinals found quite a bit of talent at inside linebacker

The Arizona Cardinals inside linebackers were one of the stronger units on defense, despite the group’s struggles stopping the run.
Sep 24, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Kyzir White (7) celebrates their
Sep 24, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals linebacker Kyzir White (7) celebrates their / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

You can attribute the Arizona Cardinals struggles in rushing defense to injuries that occurred not just on the defensive line, but also at inside linebacker. This doesn’t mean the group was ineffective, however, as they found an undisputed leader in Kyzir White, who led the team with 90 tackles and nine behind the line despite missing the final six games with a torn biceps injury. 

White should be a fixture in Glendale for a while, but he was just one of a few linebackers who made the group a relatively strong one. Krys Barnes stepped in for White, and he took sixth place on the team with 55 combined tackles with three for a loss in 16 appearances and six starts. 

Josh Woods was also a surprise, but like White, he was also banged up and saw time in just 11 contests with seven starts. Still, Woods snagged 61 tackles in those games with two for a loss, and a forced fumble, showing us he can be more than just a special-teamer even if he lacked eye-popping plays.

Arizona Cardinals linebackers had an above-average output in 2023

Zeke Turner and Owen Pappoe provided depth and they primarily played on special teams, with Turner seeing 50 snaps on defense and Pappoe, 114. While Turner will likely never become anything more than a special-teamer, Pappoe could end up with more of a look if he improves in the offseason. 

Overall, only Kyzir White overachieved at the position, and had he played in all 17 games, the former Philadelphia Eagle was on pace for 139 tackles, 14 for a loss, and at least three sacks, numbers that could have warranted Pro Bowl consideration. Given White’s outstanding production plus serviceable output from the likes of Barnes and Woods, the Arizona Cardinals get a B-minus at inside linebacker for 2023.

They may add to the position in the offseason, since Barnes and Woods may fare better as backups or rotational players while Pappoe is still a mystery. Either way, the Redbirds have a leader in White, so this position group is trending in the right direction.


(Statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference)