Dallas Cowboys: Is Damontae Kazee the missing piece on defense?

Damontae Kazee #27 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Damontae Kazee #27 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The safety position has been a heavily debated topic among fans of the Dallas Cowboys for years. It can be argued that America’s Team hasn’t fielded a true difference-maker at safety since the days of Darren Woodson, who retired back in 2004.

The Cowboys simply chose not to invest highly at safety, instead sinking much of their draft stock and monies into other areas of need across the roster. Last year’s top two starting safeties in Dallas are prime examples.

Both Xavier Woods and Donovan Wilson were former sixth-round selections that Dallas took fliers on in their respective drafts. Previous starters like Jeff Heath and Barry Church were both undrafted coming into the NFL.

The Cowboys have also used free agency to try and find a decent starting safety at bargain-bin prices. Veteran safeties like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, George Iloka, and Darian Thompson have all been brought to Dallas in those efforts.

But what about in 2021? The Cowboys now have their third defensive coordinator in three years in Dan Quinn. And the former Atlanta Falcons head coach has turned to two familiar faces to help address the team’s ongoing needs at safety.

Both former Falcons and free-agent safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee were signed earlier this offseason by the Cowboys. But with the news that Neal is expected to start his time in Dallas playing with the linebackers, it’s Kazee that has emerged as the team’s potential missing piece at safety.

Here’s what NFL Media Analyst Bucky Brooks recently wrote on DallasCowboys.com about Kazee and how’ll he’ll potentially fit in with the Cowboys.

"“Kazee is a ball-hawking centerfielder with the instincts, awareness, and diagnostic skills to shine as the deep middle defender in a single-high safety scheme. With the Cowboys, the veteran safety is the perfect playmaker to play as the ornament atop the Xmas tree in Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 scheme.”"

Brooks also mentioned that he believes Kazee’s aggressiveness and history of takeaways should upgrade the Cowboys’ secondary significantly. The 27-year old defender racked up a total of 10 interceptions between 2018-2019.

The Cowboys have desperately needed a true ball-hawking centerfielder in the middle of their secondary. There hasn’t been a safety in Dallas post more than two interceptions in a single season since 2017 (Heath, 3). And no more than three picks since 2010 (Gerald Sensabaugh, 5)

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After playing in every game for the first three years of his young NFL career, Damontae Kazee played just four games in 2020 after suffering a torn Achilles in October. He recorded 20 total tackles and forced a fumble. But the previous two seasons he racked up 156 tackles, 13 pass deflections, and 10 interceptions combined.