Falcoholic just happened to do a write up on Keanu today.
Falcons player profile: S Keanu Neal
We’re kicking off our Falcons player profile series with a look at the projected starters. We continue our safety preview with Keanu Neal, who enters a pivotal season on his fifth-year option in 2020.
By Kevin Knight
on July 13, 2020 3:00 pm
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.
We’ll get things started with the projected starters. The fifth group—and final one on defense—will be safety. The Falcons kept things largely the same here heading into 2020, with the lone addition being fourth-round selection Jaylinn Hawkins as a developmental backup for Keanu Neal at strong safety.
Today, we take a closer look at strong safety starter Keanu Neal, who enters a pivotal season in 2020 on his fifth-year option.
S Keanu Neal
Age: 24 (25 during 2020 season)
Contract: $6.46M cap hit in 2020, free agent in 2021
Career Production: 34 games played, 34 games started | 238 total tackles, 6 TFL, 8 FF, 14 PD, 1 INT
2019 Production: 3 games played, 3 games started | 14 total tackles, 12.5% missed tackle rate | 70% completion percentage allowed, 85.4 passer rating allowed
Neal followed up his strong rookie season with an even better 2017, where he was named to his first Pro Bowl. Expectations were similarly high for him heading into 2018, but Neal suffered his season-ending ACL tear in Week 1 against the Eagles—heralding what would be a miserable, injury-plagued season for Atlanta. In 2019, Neal returned and managed 3 games before suffering a similar fate, this time an Achilles injury. For whatever reason—his skillset, his leadership, or his mere presence—the Falcons defense just falls off a cliff when Neal isn’t on the field. Hopefully he can return healthy for the 2020 season.
Projection: Neal, if healthy, should return to a high-level of play in 2020. It may not be 2017 Pro Bowl-level, but it will be above-average at worst for a strong safety—which is miles ahead of what the Falcons have had at the position in his absence. Just don’t be surprised if Neal has a slow start to the season as he continues to rehab his Achilles injury.