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Get excited about Damontae Kazee, nickel cornerback

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Kazee’s future is incredibly bright.

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

I’ve resisted getting too hyped up about the Kazee move to cornerback until we saw it on the field, because there was always time for the Falcons to change their minds and slot him at safety. That wouldn’t be a bad move for the team, given that Kazee is coming off a stellar season at the position, but it may also not be maximizing his talents.

Now that Kazee is on the field at OTAs and practicing at cornerback, it’s time to get excited. Kazee was widely considered a cornerback coming out of college and had repeatedly shown a knack for intercepting passes. Given that he did so seven times a year ago—a mark only Scott Case (10), Rolland Lawrence (9), and Ray Brown (8) have ever exceeded in a single season—there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll be a turnover machine at corner facing off against receivers who haven’t had to play against him just yet. Add in underrated athleticism, evident physicality, and the fact that he’s basically the uncontested choice for the nickel cornerback job and Kazee could be heading for a huge season.

It’s his ballhawking nature and coverage skills that are most interesting. The Falcons—as well as many outside analysts—have been talking up the importance of great secondary play when you don’t have (and even when you do have) a great pass rush. Kazee’s not quite as physical a player as Brian Poole—few are—but he’s shown better coverage skills in his opportunities to this point, even at an entirely different positions, and the interceptions are potential game changers. If Kazee is the kind of big upgrade on Poole in that regard that he can be, and Desmond Trufant and Isaiah Oliver are good, the Falcons are going to be a pain to throw against. That’s going to feel quite nice.

There are so many ifs and buts with this team—in particular this defense—that Kazee’s seemingly inevitable emergence as a dangerous cornerback feels worth celebrating.