Backup Versatile Safety Named Falcons’ ‘Best Kept Secret’?

Damontae Kazee

Getty Damontae Kazee #27 of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons have been all about drafting versatile players in recent years as the NFL slowly transitions into the NBA in a sense that players no longer have a designated position, and it only makes sense to put the ball in the hands of the best players.

In Bleacher Report’s lasted feature they highlight each team’s best-kept secret. For the Atlanta Falcons, it’s versatile backup safety, Damontae Kazee.

Kazee headed to Atlanta as a cornerback in 2017 after the Falcons selected him as their fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft.

Why Kazee is Falcons Best-Kept Secret?

In the review, Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport really emphasized Kazee’s breakout rookie season and his ability to contribute on the field in multiple ways:

After barely playing as a rookie, Kazee logged 991 snaps for the Falcons in 2018. Not only did Kazee play, but he shined—he recorded 82 tackles, tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions and allowed just 53.3 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed.

Kazee’s playing time dropped a bit last season—but not by that much—and in 803 snaps at both safety and slot cornerback, Kazee tallied 74 tackles, picked off three more passes and surrendered a passer rating of just 66.3.

Kazee has everything a team could want in a 21st-century safety—he can play all over the formation, isn’t shy about chipping in against the run, has a nose for the big play and can hold his own in coverage.

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Kazee’s Versatility Has Helped Him

In three seasons in Atlanta, Kazee has spent time playing at both the safety and corner positions, recording 171 tackles, 10 interceptions and 13 passes defended.

Ricardo Allen and Kazee were Atlanta’s go-to guys last season since Keanu Neal had torn his Achilles early on in Week 3. That’s when coach Dan Quinn moved Kazee from nickel and started him at free safety then moved Ricardo Allen to strong safety.

Kazee was able to step up when he needed to last season, making him a reliable asset to the Falcons’ offense and a soon-to-be starter.

Falcons Have a Safety Problem?

Now that Allen and Neal are healthy again, the Falcons have three potential starters at safety. Falcons’ reporter Will McFadden doesn’t see it as a problem at all.

He also pointed out versatility in players, specifically Neal’s ability to play at linebacker if need be.

“Neal is also a player that represents the versatility that Quinn has looked for, McFadden said in March. Occupying a key role in the Cover 3 defense the Falcons employ, Neal, who is 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, is not much different than Jones or Oluokun – a player with both linebacker and safety skill sets. Often playing down in the box, Neal is both an enforcer in the run game and a player the Falcons have liked to match up against tight ends.”

Neal’s longevity is questionable after back-to-back season injuries and Allen’s contract is up in 2021. If Kazee isn’t a primary starter this upcoming season, his time is right around the corner.

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