Kazee is the most likely candidate to replace Brian Poole at nickelback in 2019 now that the Falcons declined to pick up Poole's restricted free agent tender Friday, Kelsey Conway of the team's official site reports.
Head coach Dan Quinn said earlier this offseason that Kazee is not only a candidate to garner playing time at free safety, but he's also a potential option at nickelback. Entering his third pro campaign out of San Diego State, Kazee will strive to improve as a tackler, but his ball-hawking abilities are undeniable. After he accounted for an NFL-high seven interceptions this past season, Atlanta wants to find a way to get him in the lineup one way or another. With Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) both likely to be recuperated in time for training camp it's going to be challenging to snag a starting spot at safety, but his shift to nickelback would provide the defensive backfield with another key difference maker.
Kazee registered five combined tackles, one pass deflection and one interception during Sunday's 34-32 win against the Buccaneers.
Despite cooling off from an insanely impactful first half of the season, Kazee still managed to wrap up 2018 in a three-way tie with Kyle Fuller and Xavien Howard for an NFL-best seven interceptions. Besides from his impressive ball-hawking nature, Kazee also finished just behind Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford for the team lead in pass deflections, while also forcing a fumble during a Week 5 loss to Pittsburgh. Head coach Dan Quinn stated in December that even when starting safeties Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) return to the fold next season, Kazee will continue to see substantial playing time at safety and nickelback.
Head coach Dan Quinn said that Kazee will continue to play safety and nickelback when Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) are fully healthy, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
After starting just once as a rookie in 2017, Kazee has collected 77 tackles and six interceptions in 14 starts filling in for Allen at free safety. The 25-year-old has missed a number of important open-field tackles, but he's impressed with ball-hawking instincts in his second season out of San Diego State. Kazee is currently tied for third in the NFL with six interceptions, and ranks top three on the Falcons in tackles (77), pass deflections (nine) and forced fumbles (one) heading into a Week 17 matchup against Tampa Bay's high-powered passing attack (319 yards per game).
Kazee collected four combined tackles and an interception during Thursday's 31-17 loss to the Saints.
The second-year man continues his Pro Bowl bid, with an NFL-best six interceptions (all coming over the past eight games), eight pass deflections and a forced fumble on the season. Kazee has been an undeniable difference maker for a Falcons defense that has otherwise struggled mightily to generate turnovers (10 all year, seventh-fewest in the league). There is, however, one glaring deficiency in Kazee's game -- inconsistency as a tackler in the open field. Most notably, he whiffed on a tackle that could have prevented Nick Chubb's 92-yard touchdown scamper in Week 10, and in Week 11 he allowed Cowboys back Ezekiel Elliot to slither past him for a game sealing 23-yard touchdown run. Sound tackling will be paramount in slowing down the Falcons' upcoming opponent, an unpredictable Baltimore backfield that features two powerful running backs in Alex Collins and Gus Edwards.
Kazee was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. The second-year safety appears to have fully recovered from his shoulder injury sustained during a Week 11 loss to the Cowboys, and is on track to suit up against the Saints on Thanksgiving Day.
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