As OTA’s kickoff, it’s massive to see Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, and La’el Collins back at practice. But from a defensive perspective one player who was on the field for the first week of OTA’s that isn’t receiving enough attention is free safety Damontae Kazee, a somewhat forgotten man in this defense. While many thought we may not see Kazee until training camp (at the earliest), it’s been reported that Kazee is ready to practice right now, with zero limitations and that’s huge for the Cowboys defense.
An important question in Cowboys’ secondary: When will S Damontae Kazee be ready to see substantial practice reps following Achilles tear early last season? Answer: now. His medical outlook a key reason why Dallas felt comfortable signing the ballhawking FS in free agency. pic.twitter.com/PFVRpMLdCX— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) May 25, 2021
After not selecting a true safety prospect in the draft, many fans questioned who would be the answer at free safety in camp, and possibly even the start of the season with Kazee recovering from the torn Achilles. Scouring the Cowboys safety depth chart, the strong safety/box safety candidates have plenty of competition with Donovan Wilson, Keanu Neal, and Jayron Kearse among others in the building, but the one style of player the Cowboys desperately lack in their secondary is the Earl Thomas-esque centerfielder with excellent range and ball skills.
That’s exactly what Kazee has done best since being drafted by the Falcons in 2017. In his first starting action in the NFL in 2018, Kazee had seven interceptions playing free safety for the Falcons in 15 starts. He backed up his impressive 2018, with another good 2019 season in which he intercepted three passes in 14 games started. Kazee was off to a good start in the 2020 season before tearing his Achilles and missing the remainder of the year.
In 2020, Kazee recorded a 65.1 PFF grade before suffering the Achilles injury. In his big 2018 season, Kazee had a 77.9 PFF grade, which ranks out around the league’s best grade for a safety. For Kazee, his familiarly with Dan Quinn and his system will allow him to play with confidence and trust his instincts knowing what’s expected of him. While Kazee shouldn’t be viewed as one of the leagues best safeties, if healthy he’s a much needed upgrade on the backend of the Cowboys defense, and he has a knack for taking the football away. If he’s a full-go in camp, and for the start of the season, Kazee’s impact could be massive for the success of the Cowboys defense in 2021.