Cardinals confident Josh Woods, Krys Barnes can carry load in White’s absence
Nov 25, 2023, 11:15 AM
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
TEMPE — For the first time this season, the Arizona Cardinals won’t have defensive stalwart, culture builder and MIKE linebacker Kyzir White leading the unit into battle.
Suffering a torn bicep in last week’s loss to the Houston Texans, one of the team’s unquestioned leaders must now watch from the sidelines for the remainder of the season, beginning in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams.
The blow of losing White, who recorded a team-leading 90 tackles, two sacks, three passes defensed and an interception, for the final six games of the season is brutal. There’s no getting around that.
Before suffering and playing through the injury for a handful of plays until he was finally sidelined, White hadn’t missed a defensive snap, a testament to his mentality and preparation.
But while White’s absence hurts, it’s not the absolute end of the world for the defense thanks to a pair of inside linebackers in Josh Woods and Krys Barnes who are more than ready to fill the void in place of their captain.
“Josh does a great job in practice helping Kyzir communicate different things,” defensive coordinator Nick Rallis said Tuesday. “Josh is already very demanding and vocal and a guy that helps run the defense with Kyzir.
“Krys prepares as detailed as anybody,” the DC added of Barnes. “He prepares with mental reps when he doesn’t get the reps and the reps that he gets, he maximizes in practice. Krys played a lot of good football over his career in the NFL.”
“Krys (Barnes) is always locked in,” #AZCardinals LB Josh Woods spoke on Barnes’ increased role with Kyzir White knocked out of Sunday’s tilt (and just how fast the LB was scooting after his INT). pic.twitter.com/Sz7bYTimBq
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) November 20, 2023
Rallis’ thoughts on both players were on display this past Sunday.
Despite Arizona losing one of its defensive anchors in White, the unit not only held strong under Woods’ leadership and Barnes’ first defensive snaps since Week 3, it also exceeded expectations.
After watching Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud carve things up in the first half, he was held in check in second, highlighted by pair of interceptions — one snagged by Barnes — and a scoreless final two quarters for the Texans.
Seeing just 22 plays, Barnes walked out of Houston with three tackles, the interception and two passes defensed.
Woods meanwhile put up a new season high in tackles with seven, but most of all, provided a seamless transition from one defensive quarterback to the other.
“We have all the respect and just excitement for (Woods and Barnes),” safety Budda Baker said Thursday. “I have all the belief in the world of them and it’s going to be very exciting to play with them.”
You don’t have to look very hard to see it’s been a tough go for quarterback Kyler Murray when it comes to the Rams.
In seven games played against the NFC West foe, Murray is 1-6 as a starter with seven touchdowns to six interceptions through the air to go along with 1,713 passing yards on 63% passing. He’s been sacked 20 times, good enough for second most behind the Seattle Seahawks (24).
Murray, however, isn’t living in the past.
“I think the first four years, it was tough for us to have success against them,” he said Wednesday. “They’re coached well. They’ve had really great players over there, but the past is the past. I look forward to this next challenge. … They have a great quarterback and a great coaching staff.
“Obviously, we’ve seen this defense a numerous amount of times and we’ve got a ton of respect for them, so we know they’ll be ready to go.”