Head coach Dan Quinn provided an injury update on Neal and his rehab progression.
“Keke is doing good,” Quinn said. “He’s exactly where he should be. We’re excited for him, he’s making great progress.”
Neal’s presence on defense was thoroughly missed for yet another season. He tore his ACL early on in 2018 which caused him to miss that season as well.
The Falcons are ready for his return.
Before the Injuries
Neal was an animal on the field prior to his two season-ending injuries. In his first season of the NFL in 2016, he earned a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie team after registering for 106 tackles. He was then named Pro Bowl in 2017 where he recorded 116 tackles.
To fill Neal’s void, Quinn started Damontae Kazee at free safety and moved Ricardo Allen to strong safety.
Kazee has become a key player for the Falcon’s secondary after stepping in Neal’s shoes and recording 10 interceptions over the past two seasons.
Allen is the team’s defensive team captain and plays a key role as the best communicator on the team.
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With Neal out two seasons now, it’ll be interesting to see if he performs the way the Falcons need him to.
Neal only started a year and 1/2 as a Florida Gator but caught the eyes of the NFL with his hitting style.
Neal is considered a top-tier athlete for his size. He has the closing speed to track the ball inside and outside the tackle box. He is persistently a clean player in transitions and is very explosive to flip and run when he sees an alley to the ball. He is thick enough to go through blockers when taking a line to the ball which translates well to the NFL.
If he comes back as normal, Neal has the ability to use his versatility and make a great impact on every down.
Uhh Three Safeties?
With Neal healthy again, the Falcons will have three reliable safeties on the roster instead of only two like a traditional roster.
Quinn and defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris are determined to rotate all three or find a spot for them elsewhere, at another position if need be.
Quinn and general manager, Thomas Dimitroff are all about having ‘versatility’ this year and years to come.
“Those are really things we’ll make sure we’re doing a very good job featuring the guys in the things they do best. Having more than enough good players is way better than the alternative. Between myself, Raheem and Jeff Ulbrich, we’ll have more than enough ways to feature them.”
The thing is, Neal, Kazee, and Allen are all athletes. And as long as they can use their athletic abilities in some way to help the team, they will always have a spot on the roster.