FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – While Damontae Kazee's success in the 2018 season might have caught the rest of the NFL by surprise, it didn't come as a surprise to him.
Kazee finished the year with seven interceptions, which was tied for first in the league. Cornerbacks Kyle Fuller of the Chicago Bears and Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins also recorded seven interceptions.
When asked about the secret to his success, Kazee said it was pretty simple.
"When I see ball, I [have] to go get it [and] make plays," Kazee said.
Despite being thrust into a new role when starting free safety Ricardo Allen suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3, Kazee said he never doubted himself.
Since his days at San Diego State University, Kazee has had a knack for finding the ball and making plays. In his junior year, he recorded eight interceptions and added seven more in his senior season. He finished his career at SDSU with 17 interceptions.
Entering his third season, Kazee is undergoing another position change.
With Allen back in the lineup, Kazee is now playing nickel cornerback for the Falcons.
Although the nickel role has different responsibilities than if he was playing on the outside, he's comfortable knowing his primary responsibility in his new role is something he's familiar with and can do at a high level.
"I'm liking it, it's back to cornerback," Kazee said. "Back to covering, to my old days. It's going to be a lot of running, testing my speed out there."
Kazee said having to learn the free safety position last year made him a better player. He now not only understands his role, but he also knows the assignments of the players around him.
"At free safety, you have to be a quarterback back there," Kazee said. "I feel much [more] comfortable now."
The Falcons are still in the thick of their installation process for the season and there's still wrinkles to iron out, but Kazee and coach Dan Quinn – who is also the defensive coordinator this season – are encouraged by the progression to this point.
Quinn's defense is centered around creating turnovers and the more the Falcons can feature Kazee, the more chances they'll have to do just that. Atlanta finished in the bottom half of the league in forcing takeaways in 2018 with 19 on the year.
"It's come together like I thought he would," Quinn said. "Obviously, we haven't done all of the things that we would do with him, but the more vision that he has, the closer he is to the line of scrimmage, that's really when Kazee is at his best. I'm encouraged so far."
No matter the position or place, Kazee said he is ready for any challenge put in front of him.
"I'm crazy Kazee … I'm just going to go out there and run and hit," Kazee said.
Playing a new role, with big expectations for the 2019 season. Take a look at some of the best images of the Falcons cornerback Damontae Kazee.