When we talk about 2017 rookies most likely to make an impact, it’s basically between Takk McKinley and Duke Riley. Both figure to at least be nominal starters, pull down 25-40 snaps per game at minimum, and make some kind of real difference with their talent and athleticism.
Then there’s Damontae Kazee. Few players in this draft class were as hyped as Kazee, who isn’t an eye-popping athlete but is a versatile, aggressive defender with tremendous instincts. As soon as he was drafted, analysts talked about him being a potential starter, either this year or in the future.
While we believe Kazee’s arrival time as a starter is probably 2018 unless there’s an injury, it’s not like he was ever going to meekly accept a reserve role this year. The Falcons are giving him a look with the first team early in camp, and it won’t be the last time they do so.
Kazee at free safety next to Keanu Neal in red zone d— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) July 29, 2017
Damontae Kazee working as first team nickel right now— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) July 29, 2017
It would be Dan Quinn’s dream if he had enough good players in the secondary to only have two or three true starters there (Keanu Neal, Desmond Trufant, and probably Robert Alford) and could mix and match everywhere else. He’s getting closer, and with Kazee playing as the first team nickel cornerback and first team free safety today, it’s conceivable he could start some games at either position. Poole can kick outside to cornerback and may be an option at safety, and of course Ricardo Allen is a fine starter with plenty of experience. This team is in a great position at the moment.
As for Kazee, he’ll be worth watching closely the rest of the summer. I don’t think he’ll ultimately be able to beat out Poole or Allen for a full-time starting gig, but I also don’t think I’m going to plunk down a lot of money to bet against him.