Rookie safety Keanu Neal is coming into this season with a lot of pressure.
Many thought the Falcons were in need of a pass rusher. Dan Quinn did not see it that way. He wanted a safety who was capable of covering tight ends, running backs as well as help support the run. Here’s what defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel had to say about Neal.
“His man coverage abilities have been on another level,’’ defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel said. “People criticized that, but they really didn’t watch the tape. … When you’re watching him play what we call our off-technique and he’s covering wide receivers, if he can cover wide receiver, I’m not worried about him being able to cover a tight end.
“His ability is out of control; his change of direction. His length — he’s bigger than what you think he is. He’s 6-1 and he’s just 210, 211, but he’s got 32½-inch arms. That, in itself, negates a lot of things. When you stand there and watch his stature, he’s bigger than what he appears. And he can cover any tight end. He can run.”
Can Neal hold up in coverage? Is he fast enough?
Neal was clocked at an average 4.62 at the scouting combine and a 4.59 at the Florida pro day. Quinn is familiar with Neal. He was involved in the recruiting process of Neal during his time as an assistant with the Gators. Here’s what Quinn had to say regarding Neal’s pass coverage skills.
“He has the quickness to play zone defense,’’ Quinn said. “We’ve seen him matched up man to man against the tight ends and the backs and we’ve got some hard matches to go against.’’
Keanu Neal is going against Devonta running back Freeman and tight end Jacob Tamme. They are very good at getting open according to many sources, Neal has done well holding up against these guys.
He’s younger, faster and healthier player and from what defensive coordinator Richard Smith says, he’s intelligent for a kid coming out of college. (unlike former safety William Moore) That in its self should be a huge plus for the Falcons defense.
With that said, I expect Keanu Neal to be a pro bowl player in his rookie season.
What are your thoughts?
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Will Keanu Neal have a great impact on the Falcons defense?