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Bright spots in a dim year: Damontae Kazee is a ballhawk with huge upside

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The Falcons have found another fifth round gem in this second year player.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Over the next week or so, we’ll look at the bright spots on this roster we didn’t have the time or energy to really praise during the regular season. After that, we’ll take a closer look at some of the players who didn’t meet our expectations.

When Falcons starting free safety Ricardo Allen went down with an achilles tear early in the season, there was some hope among fans that second year player Damontae Kazee could step in and play well. He had shown considerable promise in 2017, even if he didn’t rack up considerable snaps his rookie year. The fifth round pick out of San Diego State University was considered a ballhawk coming out, after all.

Needless to say, Kazee did step up. In fact, Kazee ended up tied for the league lead in interceptions with seven in 2018. His 77.9 PFF score made him one of the highest rated players on the Falcons defense, a grade that also put him in the top 20 of all safeties that played at least 50% of snaps. His 82.7 coverage grade put him in the top 10 of that same list.

In a season where the defense was abysmal overall, Damontae found a way to string together turnovers like we haven’t seen in a long time in Atlanta. Many fans find themselves wondering how the team will use him in 2019. Given his propensity for finding the ball, you can rest assured that Dan Quinn will integrate him in way that maximizes his ball hawking potential.

Kazee capitalized on plays like this:

And this:

With Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal set to return in 2019, the Falcons may end up fielding quite a few sets with 3 safeties. It’s hard to imagine Kazee not garnering significant snaps next season, especially with his ability to close and take the ball away - something Dan Quinn will look to emphasize again as he takes over as defensive coordinator. While the 2018 season was a rough one, Kazee has been one of the brightest spots for the team. His upside should have fans excited for what he’ll bring in 2019.