Atlanta Falcons 2016 Draft Profile: S Keanu Neal
I don’t need much more evidence. I’m truly convinced. I am completely convinced that strong safety Keanu Neal’s main objective is to seek and destroy ball carriers. I believe before every play, Keanu Neal recites the famous words once uttered by the late, great Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “They must go down and they must go down hard”.
As a matter of fact, I’m also convinced that Neal eats oatmeal and nails for breakfast and enjoys fruit and 2x4s for lunch. In other words, the kid is rugged, tenacious, and the exact elixir needed for the Atlanta Falcons defense. Let’s take a look at the talented safety from the University of Florida.
Weight: 216 lbs
Strengths: The athletic safety out of Gainesville is listed at 216 pounds yet he looks 225 pounds on film. Neal is a classic strong safety with intentions to lay the lumber on any ball carrier in his path. In run support, Neal’s instincts are sharp as he makes the correct read and explodes out of his break to meet offensive players head on.
A pretty stout tackler with room to get better. On the occasions that Neal makes a sure tackle, the ball carrier is going backwards at times. Neal is also not hesitant or reluctant to mix it up with offensive linemen and will work to get off blocks and filter through the trash. Muscular frame, with agile hips and sound techniques as a strong safety.
Neal refuses to allow yards after contact and he makes sure the play stops right then and there. Quiet demeanor off the field yet turns into a warrior once the helmets are strapped.
Weaknesses: Not a coverage safety and possibly never will be known for his coverage ability, Neal’s instincts in coverage are iffy at best. Played single high safety at times for Florida but it’s pretty clear that is not his bread and butter. Neal is not known as a “speed demon” as he is more quick than fast. He also looks a little stiff in his backpedal. Neal can be undisciplined with not applying the technique of wrapping-up instead of delivering knockout blows.
Bottom line: There is no sugarcoating when it comes to Neal and his skill set. He is a heat seeking missile with cruel intentions on the field but a quiet, humble individual off it. In a class full of talented, versatile safeties, Neal can provide a physical nature to a defense that is slowly being built by coach Dan Quinn and his defensive coaching staff.
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The presence of William Moore at strong safety over the years was a solid option, granted when he was healthy of course. The addition of Neal can fill that void and it’s possible Neal can ultimately surpass Moore to be a more dependable defender. Since day one of the Quinn era, “Fast and Physical” has been the mantra embedded into the minds of Falcons fans. Drafting Neal will definitely fit that criteria.